Azalea Danes is done with the apologies.
A senior at the Bronx High School of Science, Danes said the effects of climate change have her concerned the planet could be nearly uninhabitable when she gets older – and she doesn’t want any more excuses.
“In Washington, D.C. and around the world, there are so many who do not take the climate crisis seriously,” she said. “We need to get people’s attention.”
Danes is not sitting idly by — she is one of the core organizers of the NYC Climate Strike, a youth-led rally and march planned for September 20 in lower Manhattan.
The event has been put together by a group of about 40 high-school activists.
“We as youth are taking charge and becoming climate activists because we have no other choice,” stated Danes.
While young people are driving the NYC Climate Strike, organizer Xiye Bastida Patrick said they still need the support of older New Yorkers who can elect leaders mindful of the environment.
“We need intergenerational cooperation because we cannot vote,” said Bastida Patrick, a student at Beacon High School.
Danes and Bastida Patrick were at City Hall on September 12 with other environmental advocates and elected officials to call attention to the upcoming NYC Climate Strike event.
“The clock is ticking for us to take meaningful action in the fight against climate change,” said Councilmember Costa Constantinides, Chair of the Committee on Environmental Protection. “New Yorkers heard that call and passed the Climate Mobilization Act, but now we need the entire world to hear our plea for a brighter, greener, safer future. We need to strike so that our country, and every country, takes the necessary steps to save our planet.”
“We are facing a climate crisis and we must act now,” said City Councilmember Ydanis Rodríguez.
Danes said that organizers are expecting “tens of thousands” of participants at the march and rally.
The NYC Climate Strike Climate organizers are demanding an end to fossil fuel extraction, and asking for globally equitable climate solutions and for polluters to be held more accountable for their actions.
“We have a clear target and a clear enemy, and that is the fossil fuel industry,” said Bastida Patrick.
Born and raised in San Pedro Tapanatepec, México, and a member of the Otomi-Toltec indigenous peoples, Bastida Patrick said her hometown suffered severe flooding in 2015.
“That made me realize that climate change was affecting low-income communities the most, because my town did not have a sewage system or a means to easily get the water out,” she said.
After Bastida Patrick moved to New York eight years ago, her family was then affected by Hurricane Sandy.
“I realized that the climate crisis follows you — there is no way to escape it, so you have to face it,” said Bastida Patrick, now a resident of Morningside Heights.
Danes said her organizing efforts were inspired by the work of 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who helped organize school strikes to bring attention to the climate movement, where students lead demonstrations rather than go to class on this particular day. Danes said she felt the idea should be replicated in New York City.
“We are the generation that will be most affected by the effects of climate change, so we need to take action.”
“New York City has a duty to work alongside federal and state legislators, on a comprehensible plan to save our planet. We are facing a climate crisis and we must act now. What is happening in Northern Manhattan, the South Bronx and many other underserved communities in New York, is happening all across our country. We need to work with the Green New Deal and put together solutions that will save our planet,” said City Councilmember Ydanis Rodríguez.
“We can [organize] in a really unique way,” said organizer Cata Romo.
He noted that he hopes to see people of color taking part in the rally, as they are “disproportionately affected by the negative effects” of climate change, and lauded the work of youth organizers.
“It’s nice to see the future of our society being the ones telling us ‘We are ready to fight,’” Rodríguez said.
“We’re so grateful to be here and have adults in different positions of power to help us get numbers out for the strike,” said Cata Romo, an organizer with advocacy group 350.org. She urged youths to talk to both someone older and someone younger than them about climate change – and to ask them to attend the strike. “We can [organize] in a really unique way,” she said. “New York should lead the way.”
In backing the climate strike, Councilmember Ben Kallos noted that New York City declared a climate emergency in June, and called on the United States government to do the same.
“It’s not business as usual. When it’s an emergency, and that that siren is going off and the world around us is literally boiling…we need to shut things down until people take notice,” he said.
Danes pointed out that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has declared that 97 percent of environmental scientists believe that climate change is a man-made problem.
“We ask for every single person on this planet, every single elected official and corporation to unite behind the science,” she said.
“Youth activists will use September 20 as a catalyst for future action and climate mobilization,” she added.
The march has become an annual event.
At City Hall, Rodríguez and other electeds called on the Department of Education (DOE) to allow students to miss school for the climate march.
Later in the day, the DOE officially said that public school students who skipped school for the protest would receive an excused absence.
Provided a child has parental consent to miss school, the student would not be penalized on his or her attendance record, the agency said. Younger children can only leave school and participate in the event in the company of a parent.
“We applaud our students when they raise their voices in a safe and respectful manner on issues that matter to them,” the DOE wrote on Twitter.
Mayor Bill de Blasio backed the move in a tweet of his own: “We have ten years to save the planet. TEN YEARS. Today’s leaders are making decisions for our environment that our kids will have to live with. New York City stands with our young people. They’re our conscience. We support the 9/20 #ClimateStrike.”
Ethan Milich, a student at Brooklyn College, called on City University of New York (CUNY) students and faculty to attend the Climate Strike.
“We understand that we need systematic change to ensure ongoing environmental justice,” he said.
Danes noted that she frequently speaks with adults who offer regrets to her generation for not taking better care of the environment.
“For every adult who is apologizing for ruining the environment, we don’t need your apology, we need your cooperation,” she said.