When Duluth East High School student Izzy Laderman thinks about climate issues, she said she feels angry about the lack of action and scared for her generation’s future.
“They say we have 11 years left before it's irreversible,” Laderman said, referencing a United Nations announcement from earlier this year stating there’s only 11 years left to prevent irreversible climate-caused damage. “I think about that and that’s when I’m 27. At 27 I should be worrying about ‘Wow, why am I in so much student debt? Do I want a house? Should I get married? Should I have kids?’ This should not be my worry.”
Among Laderman’s mix of emotions runs a streak of hope that with a combination of fast action and existing technology there’s just barely enough time to turn things around.
Which is why Laderman and four other students from three different high schools in Duluth sat gathered around a table at a local tea shop Wednesday evening, Sept. 11, planning for an upcoming climate strike they hope will draw students from around the Northland.
At 11:30 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 20, students and others will rally outside Duluth City Hall to demand climate action from the government as part of a growing global movement led by young people concerned about their futures.
The five organizing students got in touch through the Minnesota chapter of an organization called U.S. Youth Climate Strike that encourages students to apply to be “school leads,” or students who help with the organizing of the strike and raise awareness in their schools.
"I think the biggest thing just to reiterate and reiterate is it's my future, it's our future," Laderman said. "This is what's at stake."
The first global climate strike took place on March 15 and engaged an estimated 1.4 million people around the world, including students who marched the streets of downtown Duluth. Will Smith, a senior at Harbor City International School, helped plan the first climate strike and applied to be a school lead for the upcoming strike.
Smith expressed a sentiment shared among the others: It’s becoming harder to know how to plan for the future and life after graduation as scientists talk about rising sea levels and extreme weather displacing a record number of people across the globe, among a variety of other dire predictions.
“I could just go and do something normal, but I’m so mad that nothing else is happening — so it has to be me,” Smith said. “Yes, I enjoy this so much. I enjoy organizing and all the people. Such a cool thing about activism is the people you meet, but hopefully someday we won’t have to plan events anymore. We can just sit by a campfire and enjoy the time.”
Kimberly Fong, a junior and school lead at East, didn’t become involved in organizing the strike by way of choice, but she's glad she is. Fong had noticed on social media that the Minnesota Youth Climate Strike was looking for school leads and after briefly considering it, she decided against it so as not to add to her already busy schedule.
Then her friend Geneva Schaub, also a junior at East, applied for the both of them.
Fong, who grew up in California, said in places that are less affected by a changing climate and environmental injustices, like Duluth, it’s easier to take necessities such as clean air and water for granted.
“That’s why they’re not taking action sooner,” Fong said of people in safer areas, “because they’re not seeing it in their community.”
She credits social media for giving young people the opportunity to have such a strong presence in the global climate movement. Without it, they wouldn't be able to organize an event in such a short amount of time. Though the Duluth students don't have a website for their event, they do have an Instagram account they use to post updates, which Fong said is a popular place for young people to get their news.
Since most of the youth involved in the movement can’t vote, they’re using other tactics to try and leverage some control over their futures. One way to do that is by making a statement during the couple of hours they won’t be at school on Friday.
“We really want the schools to respect us,” Schaub said. “We don't want them to think we're just skipping school to skip school. So we want to have kids go to school, go to the strike and come back to school.”
They also want students attending the strike to tell teachers and staff exactly where they’re going, rather than making excuses. In fact, medical professionals around the country are signing medical excuse notes for students attending the strike on the grounds that climate change will disproportionately affect the health of young people.
Still, the organizing students continue to return to promoting hope. Harper Glisczinski, another junior and school lead from Marshall School, said she likes to combat people’s comments that it’s too late to do anything with responses that inspire cooperation and positivity.
“Instead, you can say, ‘This is what we can do. Or, how about you work with me toward this?'" Glisczinski said. “Take a positive approach, because even though it’s a negative situation, putting more negativity on a negative situation doesn’t make a positive one.”
More than 450 youth-led climate strikes are planned in the United States and more than 2,500 strikes are planned around the world, with 117 countries participating.
At Ashland High School, student Ella Syverson is leading a climate strike that will take the form of an 11-minute “die in” to signify the 11 years left to prevent irreparable climate damage. Other climate strike actions will take place around the Chequamegon Bay region.
Friday, Sept. 20, is the first day of a weeklong global climate strike. The United Nations Global Climate Summit takes places Sept. 23 in New York City