'Fridays for Future': Greta Thunberg joins school strikers at UN

Two days after arriving in US, Swedish teen climate activist joins weekly environmental rally next to United Nations.

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    Local climate activists at the United Nations in New York City join Swedish teen Greta Thunberg, at centre in braids and a melon-coloured tank top [Ben Piven/Al Jazeera]
    Local climate activists at the United Nations in New York City join Swedish teen Greta Thunberg, at centre in braids and a melon-coloured tank top [Ben Piven/Al Jazeera]

    Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg has taken her weekly campaign for stronger action on climate change to the gates of the United Nations, urging "everyone who cares about our future" to join her and other young environmental advocates when world leaders gather in New York City next month.

    Thunberg, 16, began missing school on Fridays one year ago to protest outside the parliament building in Sweden, sparking a global climate strike movement known as Fridays for Future.

    On Friday, she joined 14-year-old New Yorker Alexandria Villasenor, who began picketing outside the UN in New York City in the United States last December.

    A couple hundred other young protesters supported them with signs that read "Help my home is on fire," "If you won't act like adults, we will" and "Science not silence".

    Their chants included "we are unstoppable, a better world is possible" and "sea levels are rising and so are we". Another rhyming slogan used by activists was "No more coal, no more oil, keep the carbon in the soil".

    Jonathan Kirsch, an activist with the Sunrise Movement, told Al Jazeera he came to support all youth, including Thunberg, "because this is the fight of our lives and I'd like to believe our future is worth something".

    "Greta is a singularly inspiring person in a very unique way," Kirsch said. "Her message is taking off and maybe she's the one who will convince the world, along with the rest of us, that it's finally time to do something about this while we have the chance."

    "But I'd like to see each of us youth talking to our elders, being that bridge, because it really can't be just one person. It has to be a movement," he added.

    "This is going to be the most intense month of climate action that New York City, and maybe even the world, has seen in one place. My goal is to kick off the decade of the Green New Deal on September 20."

    'Made huge sacrifices'

    Wearing tee-shirts that read "In Greta we trust", New York City students Bianca Pilcher, 11, and Lila Sabag, 10, said they had one message for world leaders: act now.

    "I don't want to live a short life, I want to live a long life and I want to have my world be healthy as well. I also want to experience having children, having grandchildren and them to not be like 'what have you brought me into?'" said Pilcher.

    Sabag said she wanted to help save the planet by trying not to use fossil fuels or plastics.

    Gale Bonker, a young activist affiliated with Extinction Rebellion, also came to see Thunberg on Friday.

    "Clearly Greta has made huge sacrifices, and we can all think about the sacrifices that we can personally make to advance this" climate agenda, she told Al Jazeera.

    Greta Thunberg at UN
    Greta Thunberg has delivered her urgent climate message across Europe, but now she is bringing her youthful environmental perspective to the United Nations, where the president of the General Assembly invited her and fellow activist Alexandria Villasenor to a meeting on Friday [Ben Piven/Al Jazeera]

    Thunberg will speak at a September 23 climate summit during the annual gathering of world leaders for the UN General Assembly. She sailed into New York harbour on Wednesday on a zero-carbon emissions boat, completing a nearly 14-day journey from Plymouth, England.

    In a statement when she arrived in New York, Thunberg said: "Everyone who cares about our future should join and strike on 20 and 27 September".

    UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned that the world faces a climate emergency and challenged leaders to come to 74th session of the 193-member UN next month with concrete, realistic plans on how to tackle the emergency earnestly.

    "We absolutely need to keep the rise of temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius to the end of the century, and to be carbon neutral in 2050, and to have a 45 percent reduction of emissions by 2030," he told reporters in France on Monday.

    Thunberg plans to attend the 25th UN Climate Change Conference - also known as COP25 - in Santiago, Chile in December, hoping to make her way there without using air travel. She has taken a year off school to campaign for climate action in the Americas with plans to visit Mexico and Canada after her trip to the US.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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