As I exited the New York subway station to join the climate strike rally in Battery Park, there were only so many steps I could take before pushing towards the front. It seemed as if every inch of lower Manhattan was filled with individuals from elementary school children to graduate students coming together for a unified mission - demanding climate action.
On Friday, September 20th, days before the start of the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), young people flooded the streets by marching shoulder to shoulder with over 250,000 others, demanding climate justice on the streets of New York, and symbolically with millions more across the world.
It is “crucial” that the world’s 1.8 billion young people have a say in the fight against climate change and ultimately “the future of the planet” according to the UN Youth Envoy Jayathma Wickramanayake.
What we’re seeing now (more than ever), is the active participation of young people and how they’re demanding change in the world. Whether it’s outside on the streets of New York, or within the halls of the United Nations, I’ve been inspired to see how young people are changing the world today starting in their own backyard. They are speaking up, challenging norms, and building upon networks to collaborate and amplify their impact. More than anything, they are demanding that world leaders play their part by committing greater actions to protect our planet.
The voices of these young activists didn’t stop at the streets, but echoed across all levels throughout UNGA. Many came from the frontlines of the climate crisis -- those whose communities suffered from hurricanes, those who were displaced and had to start from scratch and those affected by torrential rain floods and other climate related incidents.
Fiji climate activist Komal Karishma Kumar said global warming is not just taking a toll on the planet but on her generation, especially people from vulnerable places like her Pacific island nation.
Bruno Rodriguez, another young activist from Argentina, asked Guterres during the Youth Climate Summit directly to "stop asking world leaders to just listen to science and demand they act on science."
Being a bystander is no longer an option. Our current and rising generations are demanding greater commitment and bolder actions. They are the ones at the front lines seeing the effects of climate change on their cities with these increasing catastrophic weather events. We need to be more conscious of our own decisions and start elevating grassroots leaders for their efforts. We need to start using our voice to protect our planet, just as the young activists are.