Global Climate Strike: A Rising Generation Asserts Itself On Climate Change Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, 16, is calling on young people to skip school Friday and hold rallies to demand more action against climate change.
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A Rising Generation Asserts Itself On Climate Change

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A Rising Generation Asserts Itself On Climate Change

A Rising Generation Asserts Itself On Climate Change

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NOEL KING, HOST:

Students from around the world are ditching school today for a cause. They're worried about their future in a world that's getting hotter. The strikes are being led by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who's 16 years old. And the strike is timed ahead of a U.N. climate action summit in New York next week. NPR's Jeff Brady is in New York. He has the story.

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: A little over a year ago, Greta Thunberg launched her school strike for the climate by herself outside the Swedish Parliament. It has spread across the globe. She traveled from her native Sweden to New York on an emission-free sailboat.

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GRETA THUNBERG: We are currently on track for a world that could displace billions of people from their homes, taking away...

BRADY: In the past year, Thunberg has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Norwegian lawmakers. She met Pope Francis. And this week, Amnesty International gave her its top award. Thunberg ended her acceptance speech with a call to action.

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GRETA: And just one last thing - see you on the streets.

(APPLAUSE)

BRADY: In New York, thousands of students may fill the streets because the school district is giving strikers excused absences - same in Portland, Ore. Strikes also are planned in rural places, where just a few dozen protesters are expected. Seventeen-year-old Nicholas DuVernay organized a protest in his politically conservative small town of La Grande, Ore.

NICHOLAS DUVERNAY: Since probably the beginning of my junior year in high school, I've been interested in climate science and pretty passion about environmental topics.

BRADY: These youthful climate strikers all say adults are moving too slowly. They have a list of demands that were summed up at a Capitol Hill press conference this week by 17-year-old Baltimore resident Nadia Nazar.

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NADIA NAZAR: Respect of indigenous land, sustainable agriculture, protecting biodiversity, environmental justice and a just transition away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy.

BRADY: Those demands often get wrapped into one proposal, the Green New Deal, which was crafted by progressive Democratic lawmakers and so far hasn't gone anywhere in Congress. Still, Nazar hopes it will define her generation.

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NADIA: I am not a part of Generation Z. I am a part of Gen GND, the generation of the Green New Deal.

(APPLAUSE)

BRADY: Also on Capitol Hill this week, Thunberg and other activists testified before lawmakers. Louisiana Republican Congressman Garret Graves told them climate change has exacerbated the loss of his state's coastline.

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GARRET GRAVES: I agree that we need to take aggressive action. I agree that we need to ensure that we move forward in a sustainable, rational manner.

BRADY: But Graves' idea of that is very different from the activists. He has problems with the Paris Climate Agreement, which President Trump plans to withdraw from. Graves says the accord allows China to continue emitting more carbon dioxide while the U.S. cuts emissions.

Seventeen-year-old Seattle activist Jamie Margolin asked how Graves will respond to questions from his children about whether he did enough to address climate change.

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JAMIE MARGOLIN: Can you really look them in the eye and say, no, sorry, I couldn't do anything because that country over there didn't do anything, so if they're not going to do it, then I'm not? That is shameful. And that is cowardly.

BRADY: At the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Sarah Ladislaw has studied energy policy and climate change for 15 years. She worries the debate over what to do about a warming climate is dominated by people at either extreme.

SARAH LADISLAW: I'm more of an incrementalist myself - that's just what I've observed that is consistently been making progress over time. But I am really sympathetic to the idea that, you know, we're not moving anywhere near fast enough. And so I give these young people, in particular, a lot of credit.

BRADY: Credit for raising the profile of climate change and pressing leaders to act more quickly. Jeff Brady, NPR News.

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