I still remember the chills that ran down my back one crisp fall night in Iran. I was about to fall asleep when I overheard my parents talking in hushed tones about how we would have to take a different path to school the next day because a young activist was getting publicly hung in the town square. But what I remember most is that no matter how far I pulled the covers over my head that night, I couldn’t stop shivering. Stories of disappearing journalists and young political activists didn’t come as a surprise to us back then. It was hard for me to imagine a world in which I could have any control over the pollution that hung over my home city, Tehran, everyday — pollution that caused my brother to cough so hard he needed an inhaler, pollution that cancelled school more often than snow. And it was even harder to imagine that I might tackle that sort of pollution from a new home half a world away.
Eight years ago, my family found a home in the US, where we could be free to speak our minds and defend our values. I felt chills when I entered the Massachusetts State House as part of the global climate strike on September 20. Only this time, they were chills of excitement instead of fear. I was part of a group of activists, all under 20 years old, who had been organizing for months to unite over 10,000 people in Boston and join the 7.6 million others striking in other cities and countries all over the world. We flooded the halls of power with a thousand voices singing the melody of a new age, the era of the Green New Deal. The dawn of climate justice, unity between people of all different walks of life, and a sustainable future in which the American economy would serve and elevate all people regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, orientation, or age. That day, we let ourselves dream of clear blue skies hovering over a society that makes clean air, water, and a livable future accessible to all. We were fueled by hope.
But our hope is not enough. It’s not enough to save the kids watching the last bits of drywall and brick that used to be their homes float away as more and more extreme hurricanes tear through our communities. Our hope is not enough to save the families in California watching the last flakes of ash that used to be their homes drift away. Our hope is not enough to meet the rapidly approaching deadline set by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, nor is it enough to refute the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, when he says the world’s efforts to combat climate change have been “utterly inadequate.” We need large scale government action, a mass mobilization of American society away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy. In other words, we need a Green New Deal.
This Friday we had to return to the State House once more because it seems that young people have to strike to push our politicians to do their job and stand up for our futures. More and more have joined us because our government must address the climate crisis at the scale and scope necessary, and we will be relentless until our demands are met. We strike as the generation of the Green New Deal.
Saya Ameli Hajebi is a senior at Brookline High School and media team leader for the Boston chapter of the Sunrise Movement.