On Friday, Sept. 20, hundreds of young activists, including myself, shouted “This is what democracy looks like!” at the Salt Lake City Climate Strike. The event served as part of the international protests against the use of fossil fuels and the overall disbelief of climate change by government officials. Beginning as something for me to do with a friend, the afternoon suddenly became overwhelmingly uplifting and uniting.
Started by 16 year-old Swedish activist, Greta Thunberg, Sept. 20-27 has become a global union of marches, protests and students striking against school attendance. Thunberg began the cause to emphasize to local and national governments how climate change is affecting current and future generations.
“This is all wrong,” Thunberg said in an emotional speech at the United Nations General Assembly. “I shouldn’t be here. I should be back at school…yet, you all come to us young people for hope…Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth.”
Thunberg isn’t the only one who feels this way. While I have been familiar with her work in Sweden, it wasn’t until I saw with my own eyes that Greta Thunberg has single-handedly united millions of people to speak for Mother Nature.
On a rainy Friday morning in front of the Salt Lake City and County building, I was surrounded by several adults and an even more diverse set of youth. Yellow school buses parked on the side of the road to release children who had left class early to show their support. High schoolers proudly displayed clever posters and three young girls with megaphones carried the crowd in chants.
“Hey! Hey! Ho! Ho! Fossil fuels have got to go!”
“Hey! Hey! You! You! I deserve a future too!”
“No more coal, no more oil! Keep that carbon inside the soil!”
We marched along State Street, getting varying levels of approval from the traffic we had stopped. The few frustrated looks we received were worth the final sight of thousands of city members surrounding the Utah State Capitol.
As I completed the hike to the top of the Capitol staircase, I realized that for me, this event was about more than standing up for the environment.
Besides the bicycle-powered speakers playing live music from a local band and the seemingly endless amount of protestors filing in, there were also smiles, hugs and familiar faces. For so many unique and diverse people to take time to anguish over the same issue was breathtakingly beautiful. Heartbreak and passion brings us together, precisely when we need it the most.
The world needs passionate people like Greta Thunberg. Talking about and fighting for what you believe in is what makes society change, develop and grow, and that is absolutely essential. Whether it be on an international or deeply personal level, march, chant and strike for something. It’s awesome.
For those interested in joining the Climate Strike, SUU will be hosting a rally on Friday, Sept. 27 at noon in front of the Sherratt Library.
Story and Photos by: Amanda Walton