Oakland County students gathered at Riverside Park in Auburn Hills Sept. 20 to join in with international demonstrations to demand action on the climate crisis.

Oakland County students gathered at Riverside Park in Auburn Hills Sept. 20 to join in with international demonstrations to demand action on the climate crisis.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Oakland County students join in global climate crisis strike

By: Tiffany Esshaki | C&G Newspapers | Published September 23, 2019

 Eight-year-old Jeremy Hodge, of Grand Blanc, came  to the Global Climate Strike with his mom.

Eight-year-old Jeremy Hodge, of Grand Blanc, came to the Global Climate Strike with his mom.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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OAKLAND COUNTY — Young people around the world skipped out on class Sept. 20 to participate in the Global Climate Strike, a demonstration of young people advocating for a reduction and even an end to the use of fossil fuels to protect the Earth for their generation and beyond.

The protest wasn’t the first of its kind. It branched off of the popular #FridaysForFuture movement that kicked off with a Swedish teen who protested at her country’s parliament building every day for three weeks to encourage leaders to take action on the climate crisis.

Last Friday’s event was another such effort, scheduled just ahead of the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York City Sept. 23.

Protests drew tens of thousands of students in the United States alone to demand legislation that would mitigate climate change. Around the world, protesters filled the streets in Guatemala, Antarctica, Chile, Brazil, London, Austria and many other locations.

Not to be left out, students gathered at organized demonstrations in Auburn Hills, Troy and other highly visible hot spots around Oakland County to show their support.

Heather Chen, a 15-year-old sophomore at Bloomfield Hills High School, said she’s been worried about the consequences of the climate crisis since she was in elementary school.

“I think that’s the way it is for many students nowadays. We grow up hearing about climate change,” she explained. “I think it’s an issue that has become really visible nowadays because of the climate disasters that we see happening. We’ve developed this sort of ‘climate anxiety’ because we’ve been witnessing these catastrophic events.”

Chen cited the burning Amazon rainforests, more frequent and powerful hurricanes, and devastating floods as examples of the impact the climate crisis is having in real time. And the effects will only worsen, she expects, as the years go on. Chen said she believes assessments that estimate that in 11 years, the impacts of climate change will be irreversible.

“All the time we hear from the science community that our years to reverse the impending end of our world are running out,” Chen said. “Yet it feels like our government and many other adults have not been acting with the urgency that we need to.”

Chen is part of a group called Sunrise Movement, an Oakland County chapter of a national advocacy group devoted to fighting for climate action. She organized the protest at Riverside Park in Auburn Hills along with Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy senior Amelia Cumming, 17, and Bloomfield Hills High School junior Savitri Anantharaman.

“Our whole organizing team is made up of Oakland County high schoolers. We should be worrying about homework, AP tests, the ACT, college applications. It’s hard to focus on homework at a time like this. It’s hard to apply for college not knowing if our planet will survive long enough to put a degree to use,” Cumming said.

Among the specific demands the Sunrise Movement has, Cumming explained, are the passage of the controversial “Green New Deal,” proposed by freshman U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, as well as systematic respect and sovereignty of indigenous land and people, environmental protections, and restoration efforts to replenish biodiversity and sustainable agriculture.

“This is for the air we breathe, the water we drink and the places we call home,” she added.

According to the World Health Organization, climate change is expected to cause 250,000 additional deaths each year between 2030 and 2050 from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea and heat stress. In addition, direct damage costs to health are estimated to fall between $2 billion and $4 billion a year by 2030.

An additional Global Climate Strike is planned for Friday, Sept. 27, to round out Global Climate Week.

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