Students strike for Climate Action at the Capitol

Millions of others joined in to protest climate change across the globe.


Harrison Goodman-Cohn

Attendees listen to speakers at last a Sept. 20, 2019 climate strike at the Georgia State Capitol. The event drew hundreds of attendees.

George Lefkowicz

Chants of “this is what democracy looks like” and “climate action now” filled the humid, 80-plus degree air as capitol police and state troopers looked on at hundreds of vigilant protesters at the Georgia State Capitol skipping school on Sept. 20 to protest the lack of climate change action by adults in power.

The Atlanta protest was part of a global school and work strike for climate  promoted by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who simultaneously marched in New York City with hundreds of thousands of others.

The protests haven’t gone unnoticed. The United Nations General assembly recently called a climate action summit of the world’s most powerful leaders to tackle the issue on Sept. 23.

“Young people all over the world are making our voices heard in defense of our one planet, our natural environment, in opposition to the corruption that is preventing our federal government and governments around the world from taking that action that we need to take,” said Democrat Jon Ossoff, who is running for U.S. Senate. Ossoff addressed the protesters.

The Atlanta branch of the strike was orchestrated by Zero Hour Georgia, a youth-led coalition of students advocating for climate action and the local branch of the national Zero Hour non-profit to promote climate action.

Leaders of Zero Hour Georgia spoke through megaphones to the crowd outside of the State Capitol, at times, speaking indirectly and symbolically to Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and other politicians about inaction on this issue.

“It’s between life or death,” Zero Hour organizer Zeena Abdulkarim said. “So, however much your life means to you until we get some action from our government.”

Peppered in between youth speakers were adult organizers of various organizations from the Sunrise Movement and Extinction Rebellion, two organizations mobilizing climate change activists. In addition to Ossoff, senatorial candidates Ted Terry also spoke to the crowd. Both emphasized the importance of climate action in the 2020 election.

“I think we have an amazing opportunity to link responsiveness and the environmental crisis with the need for a revolution in our infrastructure,” Ossoff said.  “There is broad public support for investment in transit and transportation, renewable energy. At the same time, we can mitigate the damage being done. It’s not just climate change, there’s mass extinction, plastic waste, and contamination, its literally snowing plastic in the arctic, our own bodies are contaminated and we need to deal with it now. We can do it in a way that creates jobs and benefits for a lot of folks and transforms our economy moving forward.”

Members of the Grady community attending the strike and voiced their support for this movement while echoing grievances against the lack of inaction.

“I decided to get involved with the climate strike because our government is in denial and our reliance on fossil fuels is overheating the world at rates we’ve never seen before,” 11th-grade president candidate Devon Haller said. “If we don’t make our voice heard and fight for change, our generation and future generations will be greatly affected.”