Originally published in The Oregonian, visit the article here.
For the last several years, young people across the world have repeatedly walked out of school demanding bold action to stop the climate crisis. We have flooded the streets, chanting and singing, making our demands for our leaders loud and clear. We have stayed up late making signs when we should be studying, emailing our legislators about climate policy when we should be at soccer practice or spending time with friends. Adults love to say they support youth protesters, but time and time again, action falls short.
The first time I participated in a climate strike, I felt exhilarated. Three years later, I’m caught halfway between hope and anger. Despite our organizing, my generation has witnessed continued inaction on climate nationally and locally, with politicians and corporate interests continuing to support fracked gas, freeway expansions and deforestation. We’ve been left to inherit a terrifying future of wildfires, heatwaves, and droughts— climate disasters that will only stand to worsen if radical action is not taken immediately.
Over the years, the term “youth climate strike” has become a household phrase to describe our protests. But why is it that the burden to stop climate change is placed largely upon the generation that has contributed the least? As students strike again and again, adults call us “inspiring” and “heroic,” but these words on their own are not enough. We don’t just want you to be inspired, we want you to act.
This Friday, May 20, the youth of Portland are striking yet again. But this time, it’s different: We’re calling on adults to join us. This is an opportunity for elected leaders, parents, teachers – everyone – to show that their commitment to fighting for our shared future goes beyond empty words.
Being a youth climate organizer for the past three years has taught me that each and every one of us has a role to play in this movement. Whether that’s writing to your state representative, helping make art for an action, or just showing up to hold a sign, we need you. This fight isn’t young versus old; it’s everyone versus the exploitation of our communities and planet.
You don’t need to consider yourself an activist or organizer to show up with us— all you need to do is be there with an open mind, willing to learn. The May 20 Climate Strike is not to shame those who aren’t yet involved; it’s to unify us all in a collective fight for our shared future.
Corporations benefit when we turn against each other, focusing on the myth of individual carbon footprints that divert blame away from the companies perpetrating the most harm. But young activists know the enemy is not individuals who drive to work every morning or throw away plastic straws; it’s a status quo that prioritizes profit over people. We cannot afford to fall into the trap of personal guilt when unity and a vision for collective liberation are our most powerful tools as a movement.
On behalf of my generation, I am begging you to think about our future. Do not leave your children to watch the world burn before their eyes. Do not say it’s too late, because it isn’t. When youth leadership is backed by the support of older generations, we have the power to radically transform our world for the better.
May 20, I hope we can count on you to join us.