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Millions Of Young People Take To Streets To Combat Climate Change


From Germany and Pakistan to Nigeria and New York, millions of young people took to the streets today to demand urgent action on climate change.




UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER #1: When do we want it?


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS #2: (Chanting in foreign language).

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER #2: We want justice. We want justice for this planet. (Foreign language spoken).

CORNISH: The movement was spurred in part by 16-year-old Swedish climate activists Greta Thunberg. She's among the protesters today in New York City, where international leaders are due to gather for a U.N. Climate Summit on Monday. NPR's Jeff Brady is there. He joins us now from Battery Park in Lower Manhattan.

Hey there, Jeff.


CORNISH: Describe what you've been seeing out there among the protesters today.

BRADY: I have seen a lot of people. Turnout for this climate strike has been pretty extraordinary. I've seen people of all ages, of course a lot of young people. And events started with a rally up in Foley Square. It was packed, and protesters were even on nearby streets. It was harder than normal to get around parts of the city today. After Foley Square, protesters marched down past City Hall, here to Battery Park at the tip of Manhattan, for more speakers and some music. And, you know, this is a school strike for climate, so a lot of people missed classes today. They said being here was more important than being in school.

I talked with Anna Munne. She was here with her daughter. They live over in New Jersey. And I asked her why she came to the city for the protest.

ANNA MUNNE: We are here in the strike for climate change because we think it's very important, especially for the young generations, to save our world, save the planet. We only have one planet. And if your house was on fire, you would save it, right? So that's why we are here.

BRADY: I also asked her 7-year-old daughter Aridna - sorry, I'm getting that name a little mixed up there, but Aridna - why she was here, and this was her answer.

ARIDNA: The fish.

MUNNE: What happens to the fish?

ARIDNA: They eat the plastic, and we eat the fish.

MUNNE: So what do we have to do to avoid that?

ARIDNA: Save the planet.

CORNISH: The goal around the world for these protests was, really, to get leaders and lawmakers to take action on climate change. What are some of the more specific demands?

BRADY: You know, we're hearing - we're seeing a lot of the demands on signs here. I've heard them from protesters. The big one is no fossil fuels. They want a complete transition away from carbon-emitting fossil fuels toward renewable energy, and that's a tough one because even though renewable energy is growing very fast, forecasts show that fossil fuels are going to dominate the energy picture for decades to come. But they want that to - that transition to happen faster.

They also want polluters held accountable, they say. That means suing oil companies for knowing about the science behind climate change but continuing to sell their products. And there are legal cases underway about that. The big thing, though, is advocating for the Green New Deal - that's a policy proposal that just kind of wraps all of this up. It was crafted and introduced by progressive Democratic lawmakers, but it hasn't gotten anywhere in Congress yet.

CORNISH: Take us beyond New York. What's been happening throughout the country?

BRADY: Yeah. Organizers say that there were more than 600 climate strikes in the U.S. There were 2,100 events globally in more than 175 countries. I talked with some organizers in Boise, Idaho. They held a sit-in on the steps of the state Capitol Building. Here's Jyoni Shuler. She was among the protesters.

JYONI SHULER: We've got plenty of signs out here. We've got some chants going. You know, we're in one of the reddest states in the country, so we're really excited to shake things up here.

BRADY: And I saw photos of that protest in Boise. It looks like they had a couple hundred people, and that was a good turnout for them.

CORNISH: And what should we expect for this U.N. Climate Action Summit coming up?

BRADY: Yeah. Greta Thunberg, she is expected to address that summit on Monday. Organizers are planning more protests - one in D.C. on Monday morning. And then even a week from tomorrow, there's a protest planned in Duluth, Minn.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Jeff Brady speaking to us from New York.

Thanks so much.

BRADY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jeff Brady is a National Desk Correspondent based in Philadelphia, where he covers energy issues and climate change. Brady helped establish NPR's environment and energy collaborative which brings together NPR and Member station reporters from across the country to cover the big stories involving the natural world.
Over two decades of journalism, Audie Cornish has become a recognized and trusted voice on the airwaves as co-host of NPR's flagship news program, All Things Considered.