Climate activist and Amherst College sophomore Dania Hallak landed in Revere after her family had to flee Syria’s civil war. It wasn’t until later that she learned the factors that disrupted her childhood were also linked to climate change, she said.
Then, in winter 2018, when rising sea levels forced her classmates to evacuate her coastal hometown outside Boston, she feared she would again lose her home to the effects of climate change.
“I wouldn’t wish those feelings of hopelessness and years of displacements on anybody,” Hallak said Friday, as more than a hundred people marched to the State House to demand that legislators take swift action to make climate policy inclusive and equitable, enforce science-based renewable energy targets, and reform climate and civics education to empower youths.
The protest coincided with plans for other youth climate strikes across the country. The Boston crowd was filled with people of all ages — some pushing bikes, wearing green bandanas, or carrying signs with slogans like “the oceans are rising and so are we” — with one common message to politicians.
“Stop tabling discussions about climate changes for another date. That date is now,” Harvard College senior Jade Woods said to the crowd. Woods’s family lived in Baton Rouge, La., without power for a month after Hurricane Katrina.
Hallak told the crowd: “We’re outlining the actions. We have bills on the table. We don’t have the privilege to sit down and wait.”
The protest was organized by the Massachusetts Youth Climate Coalition, a youth-led network of dozens of organizations committed to centering the voices of the state’s young people in the climate movement. It was held after a summer in which North Americarecorded one of its hottest Julys on record and communities around the world suffered through scorching heat waves, devastating hurricanes and earthquakes, droughts, and mass wildlife die-offs.
Congress is wrestling with a $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill that would greatly reduce emissions. In Massachusetts, lawmakers have yet to pass the Green Future Act, which would rebate corporate polluter fees to fund low-income communities and local green infrastructure initiatives.
While policy stalls, children are taking to the streets.
Protest organizer Divya Nandan, a senior at Westborough High School, expressed frustration that many policy makers continue to put profit over the planet, even when the science is clear.
“From progressive politicians, a lot of times the reactions we get is sort of like, ‘Good job, kids!’ or ‘Keep at it,’” Nandan said. “It’s very condescending and patronizing and no real action comes from it.”
She said it’s important that young people lead the movement because they’re going to bear the brunt of climate change.
“For someone my age, this is the future we’re looking at,” she said.
Olivia Mills, 18, a freshman at Boston University, said intergenerational solidarity is important for addressing the climate crisis. But as a young adult, she feels a unique sense of urgency.
“Young people are entering this world that is facing a lot of issues. I think we all feel a lot of responsibility,” she said.
Many of the adults in the crowd took a back seat to the younger participants, who chanted, “Hey hey! Ho-ho! Fossil fuels have got to go.”
Eben Bein, 34, said left his career as a high school biology teacher to work as a field coordinator for youth-centered nonprofit Our Climate.
“[Adults] need to stop pretending that we get it right without the help of the most impacted generation,” Bein said in a phone interview before the protest. “Young people see clearer and further ahead than we do. We’re morally obligated to listen and follow their lead.”
Julia Carlin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.