From India To Kentucky, Students Around The World Walk Out To Demand Climate Change Action06:00
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Young demonstrators in the U.K. hold placards as they protest around the Queen Victoria Memorial during the "Global Strike 4 Climate" protest march, outside of Buckingham Palace in central London on March 15, 2019. (Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images)
Young demonstrators in the U.K. hold placards as they protest around the Queen Victoria Memorial during the "Global Strike 4 Climate" protest march, outside of Buckingham Palace in central London on March 15, 2019. (Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images)

Students from more than 100 countries around the world are cutting class on Friday to call attention to climate change. The mass demonstration was inspired by 16-year-old environmental activist Greta Thunberg, who started a weekly "school strike for climate" last year in Sweden.

Friday’s strike has garnered the largest turnout worldwide since the student rallies across Europe began in 2018.

Co-organizers of the Kentucky Youth Climate Strike, Emily Johnson and Juli Russ, talk to Here & Now's Peter O'Dowd about why they are striking outside the Fayette County Courthouse in Lexington, Ky.

“Here's the bottom line. Education isn't going to matter if the Earth is uninhabitable in 20 years,” sophomore Juli Russ says.

“Student activism should 100 percent be supported, as we are the future leaders of our countries, including Australia,” Russ says in response to Australia’s prime minister saying there needs to be “less activism in schools.”

It’s our “civic duty to demand that our future is stable,” Russ says.

In the U.S., various regions have been experiencing rising sea levels, unusual weather patterns, or intense hurricanes and wildfires. But what about Kentucky in particular is concerning to the youth organizers?

Senior Emily Johnson says she’s especially concerned about eastern Kentucky, which is known for its coal mining industry.

“Fossil fuels coming out of the ground, it's just making everything get hotter and hotter as it goes,” Johnson says. “And it's not going to be able to be a place where people can live and have homes and lives there for them and their children.”

Hundreds of schoolchildren take part in a climate protest in Hong Kong, Friday, March 15, 2019. (Kin Cheung/AP)
Hundreds of schoolchildren take part in a climate protest in Hong Kong, Friday, March 15, 2019. (Kin Cheung/AP)

Interview Highlights

On whether their parents are OK with them missing school to strike

Emily: “My parents are pretty OK with it. They're pretty supportive. My mom doesn't really like me missing school a lot. But you know, she's putting up with it.

I signed up to organize before I asked my mom if I could skip school. So then even if she had been a little reluctant, I could say, ‘Well, I organized it. I have to be there.’ So I went with that strategy, and then when I told her, at first she was, like, ‘Oh my god, why?’ And then I explained it to her and she was like, ‘OK, that's fine.’”

Juli: “My dad is really supportive of a lot of my endeavors.”

On whether Juli's school plans to take action against the students’ who strike

Juli: “I'm not exactly sure what [the school’s] policy is going to be. I haven't talked about it a lot with a lot of teachers. And of course, they can't openly endorse the strike, but they can say that they stand behind us. And that's what counts.”

On Greta Thunberg’s worldwide accomplishments

Emily: “I think it's excellent what she's been able to accomplish. She's younger than me, and she's already changing the world. This whole movement was started by her. And you know, people are finally starting to listen to us and I think it's great what she's done.”

On whether people are listening to the students’ call for climate action

Juli: “Oh, 100 percent. I think adults listen when students speak. And I think that's the importance that we have here.”

On climate change effects in Kentucky

Juli: “So I think we're all feeling the impacts here for sure. And it is different than what California's experiencing and in some other places around the world. But everyone is affected, whether that be the odd giant storm, then the next day it's super sunny, then the next day it's snowing. You never know what's going to happen. And [these] precipitation changes, these are happening because of climate change and there's no denying that.”

On whether they are prepared for any blowback from their climate change activism

Emily: “Well, I know personally I've posted things on my social medias trying to promote the strike, and I've had a few people swipe up and say, you know, ‘Climate change isn't real. Why are you doing this? It's pointless.’ But I've learned to just show them the facts and then if they still don't agree, just ignore it.”

Photos From Student Climate Strikes Around The Globe

Students in Cape Town, South Africa take part in a protest Friday, March 15, 2019 as part of a global student strike against government inaction on climate change. (Nasief Manie/AP)
Students in Cape Town, South Africa take part in a protest Friday, March 15, 2019 as part of a global student strike against government inaction on climate change. (Nasief Manie/AP)
Students and supporters of the Massachusetts Youth Climate Strike, crowd around the steps of the State House in Boston. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Students and supporters of the Massachusetts Youth Climate Strike, crowd around the steps of the State House in Boston. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Youth take part in a demonstration against climate change near the Eiffel Tower in Paris, on March 15, 2019. Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty Images)
Youth take part in a demonstration against climate change near the Eiffel Tower in Paris, on March 15, 2019. Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty Images)
Indian school students hold placards as they take part in a protest against global warming in Hyderabad on March 15, 2019. (Noah Seelam/AFP/Getty Images)
Indian school students hold placards as they take part in a protest against global warming in Hyderabad on March 15, 2019. (Noah Seelam/AFP/Getty Images)
Young demonstrators join the International Youth Climate Strike event at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on March 15, 2019. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
Young demonstrators join the International Youth Climate Strike event at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on March 15, 2019. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
Students in Rome gather in front of the ancient Colosseum in protest to demand action on climate change on Friday, March 15, 2019. (Andrew Medichini/AP)
Students in Rome gather in front of the ancient Colosseum in protest to demand action on climate change on Friday, March 15, 2019. (Andrew Medichini/AP)
Participants march in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, March 15, 2019. About 150 students and other protesters attended a rally to protest their governments' failure to take sufficient action against climate change. (Lee Jin-man/AP)
Participants march in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, March 15, 2019. About 150 students and other protesters attended a rally to protest their governments' failure to take sufficient action against climate change. (Lee Jin-man/AP)
Young demonstrators in Finland gather at the Finnish Parliament during the protest march of Finnish youths calling for climate protection in Helsinki, on March 15, 2019. (Heikki Saukkomaa/AFP/Getty Images)
Young demonstrators in Finland gather at the Finnish Parliament during the protest march of Finnish youths calling for climate protection in Helsinki, on March 15, 2019. (Heikki Saukkomaa/AFP/Getty Images)
Students march along Market Street in San Francisco during a protest against climate change Friday, March 15, 2019. (Ben Margot/AP)
Students march along Market Street in San Francisco during a protest against climate change Friday, March 15, 2019. (Ben Margot/AP)
Thousands of high school students in Lisbon, Portugal, carry posters and chant slogans during a protest march through Lisbon while taking part in a global school strike for climate change (Armando Franca/AP)
Thousands of high school students in Lisbon, Portugal, carry posters and chant slogans during a protest march through Lisbon while taking part in a global school strike for climate change (Armando Franca/AP)

Chris Bentley produced this interview and edited it for broadcast with Kathleen McKenna. Serena McMahon adapted it for the web.

This segment aired on March 15, 2019.

Peter O'Dowd Twitter Senior Editor, Here & Now
Peter O’Dowd has a hand in most parts of Here & Now — producing and overseeing segments, reporting stories and occasionally filling in as host. He came to Boston from KJZZ in Phoenix.

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