SEATTLE -- From to Paris to Peshawar, Wash., to Washington, D.C., hundreds of thousands of young people led protests Friday demanding action on climate change as a United Nations summit approaches Monday.
In Bangkok, Thailand, demonstrators staged a "die-in," sprawling on the ground near national environmental ministry offices. In Australia, organizers estimated more than 300,000 people took to the streets. In London, a girl held a sign reading "We are skipping our lessons to teach you one."
The global climate strike protests have been inspired by Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish activist who sailed across the Atlantic Ocean in a zero-emission yacht rather than fly and Wednesday met with members of Congress, urging them to heed scientists' warnings on climate change. Crowds were gathering in New York on Friday morning to hear Thunberg speak.
In Berlin, more than 100,000 people gathered in front of the Brandenburg Gate near Chancellor Angela Merkel's office, where all-night talks produced a $60 billion package of measures to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
Acknowledging they were inspired by the spreading popularity of demonstrations, Merkel and key ministers in her coalition government announced the package of fees on carbon emissions and incentives for clean energy they hope will put Europe's biggest economy back on track to meet its CO2 reduction targets.
In northern Pakistan, more than 300 teachers, students and environmental activists marched Friday at the University of Peshawar, chanting slogans such as "Save our planet" and "Earth is our mother." Asif Khan, a professor and head of the campus Environmental Science Society, which organized the march, called for urgent measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
"Actions are required to stop this climate change phenomenon, not words," said Asif, expressing a common theme.
Thousands of protesters marched through central Paris. High school students skipped classes to show their growing anger and frustration. "We are afraid, I mean really afraid about the destruction of the planet and its resources," said Katoucha Masson, 15. "Are the politicians doing enough? Non, non, non."
In Texas, protesters gathered in Austin, Dallas suburbs, San Antonio, on the Mexican border and in Houston, which was still reeling from Tropical Storm Imelda. "We face regular environmental disasters like (Hurricane) Harvey and Imelda, while also having hundreds of miles of burn bans and desolate prairie," said Virginia Gaffney, 19, the leader of the strike in Texas, who participated in the Austin gathering.
The global grassroots campaign was designed to disrupt everyday life and build political pressure ahead of the United Nations summit, in which heads of state convened by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres plan new climate pledges. Countries planning to forgo pledges include the United States, which President Donald Trump is withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement.
Protesters expressed a growing sense of crisis amid heat waves, floods, hurricanes, droughts and wildfires. Advocates want governments and corporations to set deadlines for switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
Rallies are intended to be peaceful, but next week U.S. activists plan more confrontational protests, aiming to snarl Washington traffic Monday and disrupt San Francisco's financial district Wednesday.
In Bow, N.H., organizer Rebecca Beaulieu of 350.org is recruiting volunteers for a protest Sept. 28 designed to close Merrimack Station, one of the largest coal-fired power plants still operating in New England. "There are a whole bunch of people who are willing to risk arrest," she said.
School systems and corporations struggled this week to respond as students and employees made plans to ditch classrooms and offices. New York City is allowing its 1.1 million public school students to skip classes for the day. But the Los Angeles' district encouraged students to remain on campus and "express themselves at school," according to a district spokeswoman.
Patagonia and a handful of other retailers, including Ben & Jerry's, closed stores Friday in solidarity with protesters. Rose Marcario, chief executive of the Ventura, Calif.-based outdoor clothing company, wrote in a blog post the warming climate is speeding the world toward the biggest economic catastrophe in history. "Capitalism needs to evolve if humanity is going to survive," she wrote.
At Amazon headquarters in Seattle, more than 1,700 employees began walking out late in the morning, saying their employer isn't moving fast enough to reduce its impact on climate change.
Some carried signs reading "Customer obsessed equals climate obsessed" and "Amazon, let's lead. Zero emissions by 2030."
In apparent attempt at a preemptive response, Chief Executive Jeff Bezos on Thursday announced a Climate Pledge for Amazon and other companies to sign. Amazon committed to meeting the goals of the Paris agreement 10 years early and reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2040.
But an employee group called Amazon Employees for Climate Justice called for the company to hit zero emissions by 2030, and to stop helping oil and gas companies accelerate extraction and discover reserves. A company subsidiary, Amazon Web Services, provides cloud computing services to those fossil fuel businesses.
"If we're coming in just at 2040, that means that most other companies are coming in somewhere after that, and that's not enough," said data engineer Justin Campbell, a member of the group.
But Campbell said group members were elated Bezos made the announcement.
"I don't think anyone wants to be part of the generation that knew we had a chance to make a change but didn't," he said.
In Lower Manhattan, swarms of protesters, many of them children and teens who had walked out of class, poured into the streets.
"Seas are rising and so is our anger," read one protester's placard.
"Climate justice now," they chanted, and "You had a future. So should we."
Protesters gathered midday in and around Foley Park before marching past City Hall and toward Battery Park.
Mari Matoba, a 37-year-old market researcher from Brooklyn, took the train in from Brooklyn. She carried her 18-month-old son, Wells, and pulled her 6-year-old daughter, Hadley, out of first grade to come along too, saying the march was as important as any lesson in the classroom.
"We need to be acting immediately to create a world that is not just healthy for our children, but that can sustain their children," Matoba said.
In Miami Beach, where sea level rise and erosion could place more than 12,000 homes at risk of chronic flooding within the next 30 years, a relatively small crowd of roughly 300 students and adult chaperons gathered outside City Hall in the first of two protests Friday. Their signs read "I hope my grand kids know how to swim" and "Take a stand before our city is all sand."
NW News on 09/21/2019
Print Headline: Global climate strikes: Protesters rally around the world