Around one year ago, a 15-year-old girl in Sweden by the name of Greta Thunberg asked herself a simple question: What is the point of going to school to prepare for my future if climate change threatens to completely destroy the world I’m being prepared to enter?
So she decided to skip school on Fridays and stand outside of the Swedish parliament to call on her government to do more on climate change. She began this bold act of defiance entirely by herself. Over the next year, she inspired hundreds of thousands of students to join her in skipping school in these “Climate Strikes” and is now a leading candidate for the next Nobel Peace Prize.
Thunberg is one of the most prophetic and powerful voices alive today and has the clarity of purpose and moral compass we need for this age. When she was invited to speak to political leaders around Europe, from the British Parliament to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, she refused to fly and instead traveled only by public rail. When she was invited to address the UN General Assembly at the upcoming UN Climate Summit in New York City on Sept 23, she knew that she would want to participate, but also knew that she could not do so by flying to the United States.
So she decided to spend two weeks on a small sail boat designed for racing, to rely upon the wind to carry her. She arrived on our shores with great fanfare, in high spirits, and ready to call on the world to save itself.
The Global Climate Strike and Week of Action
Earlier this summer, Thunberg joined with youth leaders from around the nation who had led Climate Strikes in their countries to call on adults to have their backs by joining them on a Global Climate Strike on Sept 20.
Here in Boston, youth leaders have organized a great Boston Climate Strike for the Boston Common starting at 11:30 am at Boston City Hall Plaza. My organization, 350 Massachusetts, is proud to stand behind these young leaders and their calls for action alongside a coalition of organizations including the League of Women Voters, SEIU Local 509, the Massachusetts Teachers Association, Toxics Action Center, Green Roots, Clean Water Action, Climate Action Now, Mothers Out Front, the Sierra Club, Sunrise Movement Boston, Unitarian Universalist Mass Action, Jewish Climate Action Network, Extinction Rebellion, and others.
This rally also kicks off a week of action spearheaded by 350 Massachusetts under the banner of Charlie’s Climate Catastrophe Tour. Gov Baker has failed to lead on climate change, so it’s time for him to come face to face with the climate catastrophes around the state he is ignoring. And since he seems averse to visiting many of these places, we’re going to take a life-sized puppet of him around to key sites in Massachusetts. On Sunday, Sept 22, at 1 pm, we’ll kick off the tour at the State House with a march focusing on the administration’s public transportation catastrophe, and end the tour by bringing Charlie to Weymouth to visit a site he refuses to visit: that of the proposed Weymouth Compressor Station. For a list of all the stops on the tour, visit actionnetwork.org/event_campaigns/charlies-climate-catastrophe-tour.
The demands of the Boston Climate Strike are several: they want Governor Baker to declare a climate emergency and enact a Green New Deal-style piece of legislation, and they are also echoing the platform of the Mass Power Forward coalition to move specific existing legislation forward immediately.. First, to codify environmental justice into law and protect historically marginalized communities from environmental injustice. Second, to invest in green, job-creating solutions in these traditionally marginalized communities through enacting a statewide carbon price. And third, to set clear targets to use clean renewable sources for all of our electricity by 2035 and all of our energy (including heat and transportation) by 2045.
While these bills will not alone solve climate change or encompass all that a Massachusetts Green New Deal should include, they would represent a big step forward. But they won’t be possible unless people like you reading articles like this take their fear and frustration and turn them into action.
Join us on Sept 20 at City Hall Plaza or on Sept 22 at the Massachusetts State House. Call your legislators and ask them to pass these critical bills. And keep calling and keep showing up until our leaders act like leaders and do what is necessary to save life on Earth as we know it.
See you in the streets!
Craig S. Altemose is executive director of Better Future Project, a Cambridge-based nonprofit working to build the movement for climate justice through its program 350 Massachusetts, Divest Ed, and Communities Responding to Extreme Weather (CREW).
This article is part of the Special Climate Crisis Issue of DigBoston (9/19/2019, Vol. 21, Iss. 38) produced in cooperation with the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism as part of the global Covering Climate Now initiative organized by The Nation and Columbia Journalism Review.