Up to 1.4 million children around the world took part in a global climate strike on Friday to demand world leaders do more to address the dangers of climate change. The mass protests were sparked by 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who has skipped school every Friday to sit outside the Swedish parliament to demand leaders act on climate change. Democracy Now! was in the streets of New York City on Friday with the young activists. We speak with 18-year-old Alysa Chen, one of the organizers of the walkout at New York City’s Bronx High School of Science.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman. Up to 1.4 million young people around the world took part in the “Global Climate Strike” Friday to demand world leaders to do more to address the dangers of climate. Strikes were reported in 125 countries. The mass protests were sparked by 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who has skipped school every Friday to sit outside the Swedish parliament to demand leaders act on climate. On Friday, Greta spoke at her rally in Stockholm, Sweden.
GRETA THUNBERG: The last time I checked, there were over 123 countries where there are going to be strikes today, in 2,052 places, cities.
AMY GOODMAN: Greta Thunberg was just nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Here in New York, students held a climate strike rally outside City Hall.
PROTESTERS: What do we want? Change! When do we want it? Now! What do we want? Change! When do we want it? Now!
ALYSA CHEN: I am here from Bronx Science. We walked out of our school. We all received cuts. My friends got zeros on their math test. We’ve neglected anything from our school to walk out and come here today from the Bronx. This country needs to get its priorities straight. I demand our mayor to support the declaration of climate change as a national emergency!
PROTESTERS: Show me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!
DIEGO DELGADO: My name is Diego Delgado. I go to the Bronx Academy for Software Engineering. The reason I came here with my flag of Puerto Rico is because I wanted to show support for my country or the island. I wanted to show support for the rest of the Caribbean, because it’s a very low-lying area that needs to have support put onto it, because the oceans are rising very quickly, and these are very susceptible to that, as well as the fact that Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico and other islands in 2017. Many still haven’t recovered. Three thousand people died in Puerto Rico, including members of my own family. And I think it’s an issue that the United States did not focus enough on, and Puerto Rico did not receive enough aid from the United States. So, it just goes to show that climate change is killing people already, and the U.S. has complete inaction on it.
ZOEY: My name is Zoey, and I go to the Brooklyn Free School. My sign says, “Fracking No!” because fracking is wrong, and there’s nothing good about it. And it like causes earthquakes. It pollutes the water around it, so people and animals can die. It’s horrible!
PROTESTERS: When our planet’s under attack, what we do? Stand up, fight back! When our planet’s under attack, what we do? Stand up, fight back!
TASNIM EMU: My name is Tasnim Emu, and I’m from Urban Assembly Institute of Math and Science for Young Women. They say that education isn’t worth sacrificing to make a political point. But I think they’re wrong, because we’re all here going to school, and we think that we have this big future for us, but our education will be ignored if we’re too busy trying to survive instead of living.
PROTESTERS: Sea levels are rising! And so are we!
AMY GOODMAN: Some of the voices here in New York at this part of the global climate march. For more, we’re joined in New York by 18-year-old Alysa Chen, one of the organizers of the walkout at New York’s Bronx High School of Science.
Alysa, it’s great to have you with us. We saw you out there speaking to the crowd. Why did you organize Bronx Science?
ALYSA CHEN: All right, well, for a long time, I felt like I was the only one in my school who felt very strongly about this and felt like we needed to have a presence in this march. But apparently I was joined by three other very passionate individuals in my school, one of which, named Azalea Danes, had created her own Instagram account and mobilized hundreds of our students to follow it and keep up with this climate strike that we were organizing. And then, for two weeks straight, with like barely any sleep, we worked on a seven-page proposal to our school administration. We worked on the logistics behind this walkout, that we were going to walk out to this park outside of our school and give speeches in the bleachers and be able to mobilize these people and make them feel very, you know, angry at the government for what it has not done to address climate change.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you want Mayor de Blasio to do?
ALYSA CHEN: I want Mayor de Blasio to recognize that we have a voice in this, that we have the ability and the passion and the will to really move this forward and solve the climate crisis, because if — you know, politicians today are not addressing this, and those are the ones in office right now. We are the ones who want our voices heard.
AMY GOODMAN: President Trump has called immigration a national emergency. What do you respond to him?
ALYSA CHEN: I respond to him that climate change is the real, demanding, existential issue of today. Not to ignore immigration, not to devalue the issue, but I think he is drawing the attention away from the biggest elephant in the room, from what our country, as the second-highest polluter in the world —
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think climate change is a national emergency?
ALYSA CHEN: Yes, I thoroughly believe so. And I believe that scientists across the nation and the world also agree with me.
AMY GOODMAN: Alysa Chen, I want to thank you for being with us, 18-year-old senior at Bronx High School of Science. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks so much for joining us.