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NARROWSBURG, NY — Millions of young people took part in Global Climate Strike (GCS) marches around the world on September 20, with the first marchers gathering in Australia.
The movement was launched by Greta Thunberg, a Swedish environmental activist, in August 2018, when she was 15-years-old and held a one-person protest in front of the Swedish parliament. From there, the Friday protests expanded around the world.
Many subsequent marches were held in the U.S., with the largest taking place in New York City, Washington D.C., Chicago and Los Angeles. There were, however, no events planned for school districts in the Upper Delaware Valley on either side of the river.
That prompted veteran activist Beverly Sterner to call for a gathering on the Narrowsburg Bridge, a call to which about 20 people responded. She said it was “disappointing” that local school districts did not join in the GCS effort. In her view, “teach-ins” that were employed to inform the public in the 1960s about the Vietnam War would be useful now.
“We had sit-ins, and then we had teach-ins because there were so many lies about Vietnam, and [the public] didn’t have all the information,” she said.
“Those of us who did have information—the professors and the historians and the people who knew what was going on in Vietnam—we had teach-ins at universities and colleges and high schools and all over,” she said. “Because of those teach-ins, a movement grew.” Sterner added that this was an important part of the Vietnam story because Americans became educated about the war.
“That’s what we need to do now, and that’s the exciting thing that Greta is doing—she’s saying the most important thing we need to do now is get educated, to learn the science.” Thunberg sailed to the United States from England in an emissions-free sailboat to speak at the United Nations Climate Change Summit, among other scheduled appearances. “Imprinted in those sails was ‘unite behind the science,’” Sterner noted. “This is a non–partisan issue—this is an issue of life and death, and the young people today, they are going to be the ones to either live or die based upon the future that we create.”
When Thunberg spoke at the UN on September 23, she had a stern message for the adults in attendance.
“You all come to us young people for hope,” she said. “How dare you? You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words, and yet, I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing.
“We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you?”