Last month, crowds of young people and supporters gathered in 1,500 locations around the world for one of the largest youth-led climate protests since countries began emerging from the most restrictive phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many students skipped school or staged class walkouts to participate in the Sept. 24 day of action, the latest surge of activity from the school strike movement that launched in late 2018.
The protest was a sign that youth climate activists, who have had to adapt to COVID lockdowns and restrictions on large gatherings, are ready to reassert themselves through mass mobilizations. In just the last few years, young people have raised the profile of climate change as a national concern in the United States, made climate a major issue in Congress for the first time in over a decade, and persuaded colleges and universities to divest billions of dollars from fossil fuel companies. Most recently, thanks to student advocacy, schools like Harvard and Boston University have announced they are divesting from coal, oil and gas.
However, if recent pushback against climate legislation in Congress demonstrates anything, it is that the climate movement will be busy for years to come. The past two decades of organizing have weakened the fossil fuel industry’s grip on politics, but these corporations and their allies in government remain powerful. This raises an important consideration: How can the climate movement best ensure the growth of new generations of young activists to propel it forward into the future? 10-20-21