Local groups collaborate with young activists
A feverous cheer went up as Greta Thunberg stepped onto the stage of the Greek Amphitheatre of Civic Center Park on Oct. 11. The 16-year-old climate activist capped off an energetic protest from a diverse group of children, adults, indigenous leaders, and students.
“It is we young people and future generations who are going to suffer the most from the climate and ecological crisis. It should not be up to us to take responsibility, but since the leaders are behaving like children, then we have no other choice,” Thunberg declared to resounding applause from the crowd.
Thunberg’s appearance in Denver is part of her ongoing Fridays for Future movement, inspiring students and young people to strike and organize their own climate protests.
The young activist’s ascent to world-renowned climate activist found lonely beginnings on the steps of the Swedish Parliament building in August of 2018, with a handmade sign reading “Skolstrejk för Klimatet” (School Strike for Climate).
Over a year later, Greta Thunberg’s sign has been translated into hundreds of languages, inspiring a growing number of students around the world to skip school in protest of climate change. She has ventured across the Atlantic in a zero-emissions sailboat, testified in a UN hearing, and was recently nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
The Oct. 11 rally in Denver was put together by a coalition of groups, including the International Indigenous Youth Council, 350 Colorado, and Sunrise Colorado. Thomas Lopez of the International Indigenous Youth Council explained to the crowd, “The work that Greta has done is absolutely beautiful and absolutely amazing, but when we’re acknowledging one frontline youth, we have to make sure that we’re acknowledging other frontline youth as well.”
Six young activists from local organizations and the indigenous community spent much of the time prior to Thunberg’s arrival answering questions on everything from plastic waste reduction to the dangers of fracking. The panelists also spoke about the connection between social justice and climate justice as a main theme for the rally, drawing attention to the thousands of missing and murdered indigenous women with red handprints painted over their mouths.
Renee Chacon, one of the panelists and a founder of the indigenous rights group “Women of the Mountain,” elaborated on the social aspects of climate change, stating, “When there’s a big boom on the resources and because of the exploitative nature of the resources, the population locally gets impacted and they’re often poor and marginalized people that cannot fight in court to protect both their land and even their social policies.”
With student activists and indigenous leaders at her side, Thunberg delivered a succinct conclusion on the state of climate activism: “The world is waking up and we are the change. The change is coming whether you like it or not.”