Collective Action

Youth Worldwide are Skipping School to Strike for Climate Action

Civil disobedience re-imagined by school age Climate Strikers: a profile of two Fridays for Future student activists.

Fridays For Future School Strike for Climate

Youth Worldwide are Skipping School to Strike for Climate Action

Fridays for Future, a growing global movement of young activists, is focusing attention on climate change through the lens of the next generation. The movement was born in August 2018, when 16-year-old Greta Thunberg’s Swedish parliament sit-in went viral on social media. At the time, she was protesting inaction on the climate crisis; the following month, she decided to make it a weekly event. Since then, #FridaysForFuture and #Climatestrike have become a rallying cry for Thunberg’s generation and the adults who follow and support them.

The first global School Climate Strike took place on March 15, 2019, with tens of thousands of students participating.

That’s when Audrea Din got involved.

AUDREA DIN Albany, New York

Audrea, then a senior in Albany, New York, was scrolling through Twitter when she learned about an upcoming climate strike.

“I knew I had to do something, so I organized a strike in my city…I only had a week to organize everything and I wasn’t sure who was going to show up. I had to make a Go Fund Me and luckily I was able to raise $1,000 in just a couple days,” she said.

In the end, over 200 students showed up. Student speakers, politicians, and representatives from local environmental groups addressed the crowd. “It was amazing,” Audrea said.

The March 15th strike in Albany, New York

Soon after, she was recruited to be the New York state lead of Youth Climate Strike.

Audrea’s road to Youth Climate Strike began with her passion for politics.

“With my school’s model UN club, we took a trip to Yale on the same day as Trump’s inauguration. When we were down there, there was a huge protest going on. I’ve never even been to a protest before, but my friends and I joined in. All the energy from the crowd inspired me. I thought, ‘I want to take this back home and I want to get involved.’”

So she did. “I helped with the March for Our Lives [the 2018 student protests in the United States for stricter gun control laws] in our city and I helped organize the Women’s March locally.”

Audrea Din

With Youth Climate Strikes, Audrea helps plan future strikes and collaborates with leaders across the country to organize climate change boot camps, where budding activists can attend workshops about the many aspects of the climate crisis, and how to build a lasting movement.

When she heads to the University at Albany in the fall, she plans to major in political science and pursue a minor in sustainability or international relations — and her striking days aren’t over yet.

“I absolutely want to continue the climate strikes and I want to meet new activists in college,” she said, explaining that it’s up to the youth to demand change.

“We are the ones that are actually going to be affected by this. And it’s our future that is being destroyed…The idea behind striking is that it’s supposed to be a form of civil disobedience. So by our refusal to attend school, we believe the system is forced to take action to change.”

Audrea Din

KALLAN BENSON Annapolis, Maryland

This belief is echoed by 15-year-old Kallan Benson, who joined Fridays for Future last year.

“We’re not making the decisions that are leading to our demise,” Kallan said.

“We’re sacrificing our time and our learning to be out there and say: ‘Hey, you’ve got to do something.’”

Kallan Benson

As an active member of Fridays for Future, Kallan helps strikers around the country organize and feel supported. There are larger groups of strikers in Miami and Seattle, she said, “but mostly we’re pretty dispersed,” using phone calls, emails, and Slack to organize. “We rely on social media to promote our strikes and to get it into the public psyche.”

Benson, a rising sophomore from Annapolis, has been a climate activist from a young age. At nine years old, she attended the People’s Climate March in New York City and immediately knew this was a cause she would continue to fight for.

“My mother used to work for NOAA and there was no question in my house whether climate change existed. It was always there and we talked about it. That really fostered a easy transition into activism for me.”

Kallan began striking weekly last December in Washington D.C., when Fridays for Future came to the United States.

What does a typical strike day look like?

“For me, it usually means picking up a couple of other kids who otherwise wouldn’t be able to make it there and taking signs. We vary the location. Next week, I believe we’re going to the Department of Education and then the Museum of Natural History. We usually have a couple chants and a couple songs and we engage the passersby. We try to be as colorful and inviting as possible.”

And every Friday is different. “Each Friday, we have different people coming out and it’s always a new learning experience,” she added.

She noted, in particular, when she went on a 90-day silent strike in January, after the Maryland general assembly returned to session.

“Just being out there and learning to communicate in a different way and talking with people has been a massive learning experience for me.”

Occasionally, Kallan and other strikers will bump into climate change skeptics and engage in thoughtful dialogue. “It’s just a conversation that you wouldn’t normally have tucked away in your little bubble. It’s special to me.”

For teens who want to get involved, Kallas says, “Pick up a sign and go out on Fridays. That’s really all you need. But if you’re not ready to take that step, we have a variety of ways that people can get involved.

Kallan noted that some students have more leeway than others.

“Some teachers are very supportive — there’s actually a Teachers for Future group for teachers to connect with each other and support their students. And there are some that are not so supportive. We have a girl in Arizona who almost got suspended.”

Kallan Benson

Those who can’t strike can participate in wider school strikes or bring signs into school.

“This is a global problem. And for us to have a solution, we’re going to need everyone involved,” she said. “The politicians, the corporations, the people who are on the ground… we’re all going to have to be involved.”

In May, students around the world participated in the second Global Climate Walk-out, numbering 2,300 across 130 countries.

September 20 will see a third, larger strike, as the UN General Assembly convenes for an International Climate Summit. Audrea, Kallan, and thousands of passionate students like them, will be there, demanding change.


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