Youth lead charge against climate change

Seattle Fridays for Future strike demands action


Aly Cotte

Zoe Schurman, age 13, leading a climate strike at Seattle City Hall.

Julia Battishill, News Editor

Everyone participating in the Fridays for Future climate strike held signs, flyers or bullhorns. However, all adults were determined to direct attention away from themselves. Each one, when asked any questions about the strike, pointed straight toward their leader: 13-year-old climate activist Zoe Schurman.

Schurman arrived at Seattle City Hall early for the strike on Oct. 11, carrying a folder full of papers under one arm and wearing a t-shirt that read, “PEOPLE OVER PIPELINES.”

The Seattle Fridays for Future protests, just like many others across the country, are led entirely by students who are all passionate about the global climate crisis. While adults attend, all participants are quick to say that the kids are the driving force. They skip their classes every Friday to stand outside city hall, raising awareness and demanding action.

“There’s been so many elected officials that aren’t making the bold choices that are needed and, if we don’t do that, then I don’t know if I’m going to be able to give my kids a livable future,” Schurman said.

The strike began promptly at 1 p.m., the crowd having grown to roughly 30 or more people, and Schurman quickly became the hardest to locate of them all. She was not shy or hiding, she was actually doing more than most. She was simply moving around the sidewalk too quickly to catch.

She was helping a group of teenage girls hold up their large sign, then she was handing out flyers, then registering a newcomer to the movement’s email list, then chanting with another pair of friends, then chatting with an elderly woman, then jogging to greet new faces. Schurman had her hands full.

A woman holds a cardboard sign reading "The greatest threat to our planet is thinking someone else will save it."
Aly Cotte
Protesters of all ages gathered at Seattle City Hall on Oct. 11th for the most recent iteration of the Friday’s for the Future climate protest.

According to Schurman, she could not imagine responding to the climate crisis any other way.

“I have a little sister, I have little cousins and I have friends, right? And I want to make sure that I can protect our future,” Schurman said. “I want to make sure that I can have kids. I want to make sure that I can keep this beautiful world that we have.”

The strikes are at the same time every week outside Seattle City Hall, which means Schurman has been missing the last parts of her Friday classes for approximately seven months.

The Fridays for Future movement, which was started by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg in 2016, organizes strikes for climate activism worldwide every Friday during school hours. Students, therefore, have become the face of the movement by skipping class to raise awareness.

In Seattle, there was no official Fridays for Future group until Ian Price started sitting on the steps of city hall.

Price, 12, heard about Thunberg’s movement last year, and — after learning that Seattle did not yet have an organization — he started protesting alone in December. He has been coming every Friday since. Now, the movement has grown, and he has plenty of company outside of city hall.

Protesters hold signs along a sidewalk. The signs read "Listen to the science", "#ClimateStrike" , "I love my planet do you?" and "System change not climate change!"
Aly Cotte
On the sidewalk outside of City Hall, activists hold banners as part of the Fridays for the Future protest, an ongoing climate protest organized by local middle and high school students.

Price, along with his mother and his brother, were among the first to arrive. He was carrying a neon orange sign that read “IT’S GETTING HOT” and “CLIMATE ACTION NOW.”

“It’s just the biggest problem, I think, that humankind has ever faced,” Price said. “It’s my generation’s, and all the generations’, problem and it will affect everyone in some way.”

Throughout the protest, Price wrote in bright chalk on the sidewalk. One inscription read, “This message will wash away with the rain, but climate change won’t.”

While Price and Schurman lead the efforts, and the protest is focused primarily on the students involved, they are joined every Friday by a group of dedicated adults.

Cynthia Linet is an 81-year-old great-grandmother who said she is devoted to advocating for climate change. She seemed to know every individual on the sidewalk, and she was especially enthusiastic about discussing their cause.

“We are about to die. This planet is dying,” Linet said. “We have to join together. We have to do this now. We have to be a family. We have to take care of one another. And if we do not do it, it’s going to be all over.”

One older protester, a 77-year-old scientist, said, “the students started this last December, they’re out here to tell the world that they might be the last generation, which is actually true. I’m here because I feel ashamed of having left this to them.”

Protesters pose for a group photo on the steps of a building. The signs read "#ClimateStrike", "Trust science not business. Global warming is real" and "Listening to the wisdom of youth."
Aly Cotte
Activists gathered on the steps of Seattle City Hall protest government inaction on the issue of climate change at the Oct. 11th Fridays for the Future protest.

“The main idea is climate justice, which means zero emissions,” said teenage activist Maria Suchoski. “Our goal is by 2030, which aligns with the Seattle for Green New Deal Campaign, because we know if we don’t cut our greenhouse gas emissions there won’t be a livable future for our generation.”

Suchoski and fellow activists were chanting, “No more gas, no more oil, keep our carbon in the soil!”

She said the Seattle Fridays for Future students already know what is at stake.

“We’re also trying to acknowledge that people are already dying because of the climate crisis and we’re fighting for their lives too.”

Price was clear that the students of Seattle Fridays for Future are fighting for each other and the world at large, and they do not plan to stop.

“I don’t just do it for me,” he explained. “I do it for everyone else.”