Climate Strike is more important than a few hours of school

Last year, Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg made global headlines for her weekly protests in which she skipped school every Friday to sit on the steps of the Swedish Parliament brandishing a sign that read “School Strike for Climate.”

Today, thousands of young people across the world will follow in her footsteps and join a global climate strike in protest of political leaders’ indifference and lack of action in the face of climate change– one of the greatest global challenges humans have ever faced.

In a significant report issued from earlier this year, the UN’s scientific panel painted a far more dire picture of the immediate consequences of climate change than previously thought and said that avoiding the damage requires transforming the world economy at a speed and scale that has “no documented historic precedent.”

In light of this urgent report which joins a growing chorus of evidence, the Climate Strike is to collectively show our global leaders that we support quick, concrete action in opposition to climate change.

As members of a country whose government is supposed to derive its power from the consent of the governed, it is our responsibility and privilege to make our desires heard through speech and action so that our elected officials can legislate on behalf of their constituents. And while the most obvious source of political change, voting, isn’t an available option for many of us under 18, it isn’t the only means of political participation. We have the right and responsibility to contact our officials, sign petitions, donate money, and to protest to make our voices heard– such as by attending today’s climate strike from 11:00-2:00 in Grant Park.

Yes, you heard us correctly: we’re advocating that students should responsibly make the decision to attend the Climate Strike instead of school today.

Between 9:30 and 10:00, a group of students led by NT’s Environmental Club will take the Metra to Ogilvie and walk to Grant Park to march with hundreds of others in what will surely be a historic day of protest, following in the wake of other record breaking protests that have taken place in the past few years.

It’s true. You might have to sacrifice a few precious hours of balancing chemical equations and discussing political parties in Russia. But it’s not as if we’ve never missed a day of school in our lives. We’ll get the notes from a friend, talk to our teachers, and make up the missed work.

Because ultimately, the civic education you gain from exercising your right to protest by showing up for a climate strike is far more valuable than what you will get sitting in a classroom as you would on any other day.

Like Parkland, this iteration of activism is being helmed by youth leaders like Thunberg. It is imperative that we as students take action individually and collectively against climate change because we are tomorrow’s electorate, and we are the future leaders of this world. Our generation didn’t get us into this mess, but it is our generation that has inherited the responsibility of getting us out of it. For these reasons and so many more, we urge students to make their voices heard by joining the chorus of voices that will speak out against inaction– by showing up to the climate strike.

But if missing a single day of school to take part in a historic protest, please take this opportunity to call your elected officials. We have the privilege of living in an area where they most likely already include climate action in their platforms, but it is still imperative that we emphasize the urgency of immediate action and also to thank them for the action they have taken already.