Global warming strikes Kalamazoo


Taylor Mansheim

High school students protest the lack of progress in Congress.

Taylor Mansheim

To be perfectly honest, the whole global warming strike was underwhelming; it was not what I was expecting, nor what I had hoped. The large park wasn’t filled with teenagers, not even close. There wasn’t a teenager in sight, just a few middle-aged figures puttering around the park, sitting at stands, looking around expectantly. The sun was shining, the city was buzzing and I was crushed.

I snapped a few pictures just to document this failure, and turned to go back to the parking ramp. And that’s when the most amazing thing happened. At first there was just a low murmur, barely audible. I looked around, confused. It sounded like… chanting?

I turned around again and I was greeted with a sight for sore eyes. Coming around the corner, people of all shapes, sizes, and races, holding signs begging for, praying for, demanding climate justice: “Respect your Mother!”, “As the oceans rise, so will we”, “We stand with Greta!”, and “You’ll die of old age, I’ll die of CLIMATE CHANGE!”. They chanted, and erupted in applause when others joined in. They stormed the park, and I joined them, all disappointment from before forgotten.

That was just the beginning of Kalamazoo’s 2019 global warming strike. Throughout the afternoon, the director, Denise Keele, invited many college students and high school students along with adults onto the amphitheater stage to speak for the environment.

“That’s millions of mothers, fathers, children, siblings, veterans, elders, wildlife, plant life, human life. That’s millions of lives with no place to live,” said Chloe Carlson and Vanessa Fernandez, two high school students from Kalamazoo Central, commenting on the loss of habitable land as a result of global warming, now and in the future.

“We have become the leaders of tomorrow because adults have refused to be the leaders of today,” Carlson and Fernandez said, continuing.

“As America, as the wealthiest, most influential country in the world, we need to help lead this movement and we need to make saving the world viable, affordable, and quick,” said Benjamin Sierra-Torres, a student at Loy Norrix high school.

Many more students also shared their voices, but the sentiment was the same: we need to save the Earth, now.

But it wasn’t just Kalamazoo.

In New York, students were given the day off to strike, and the streets filled with desperate high school and college students. In Chile, protesters played dead in the streets to demonstrate the magnitude of global warming. In France, students climbed the statue on the nations square in Paris to gain attention. Around four million students in 163 countries across every continent called for action. That’s about 84 percent of the countries in the world, all demanding action. That makes it one of the bigger protests against climate change ever, and from some calculations, the biggest. These people are all feeling the heat, both literally and figuratively.

In Kalamazoo, everyone could feel the urgency, too, the urgency that I wish everyone in the world felt in relation to saving the planet. More than once, the words “I want you to act like the house is on fire” echoed across the park, and even though so many people discount these words because they were spoken by a teenager, everyone there that day was pushed to act by those words. I urge you to be pushed to act by these words, too. Join me, and join all these other teenagers in voting for sustainable practices, voting for people who support sustainable practices, recycling, reducing waste, carpooling and anything else you can muster to save our Earth.

I leave you with this from Nora Schwartz and Natalie Gross from Kalamazoo Central, which I feel pretty accurately sums up the strike, and the energy that everyone felt there.

“We’re up here fighting to help our community, our city, our state, our country, our planet, our home. We are up here raising awareness. We’re up here getting involved. Yes, we are just teens. But we have to fight. Fight for our planet, our home. Fight for our future.”