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At only 16-year-old, the Swedish teen is taking a stand and letting Congress and the world know about climate change.
USA TODAY

Tens of thousands of high school students concerned about climate change planned to let their feet do the talking Friday in a nationwide walkout of classes to join Global Climate Strike marches.

Organizers said protesters would be turning out in 156 countries from such disparate locations as Nepal, Senegal, Quebec, Rome, Kyrgyzstan, Sweden, Bolivia and Peru.

In the U.S., New York City’s 1.1 million school students will be excused from class to participate in the strike protests.

Chicago Public Schools allowed students to join the march but said they would receive an unexcused absence if they didn’t return to class afterward, according to a letter sent to principals earlier this week.

The CPA said they sought to “respect and support our students’ desire to voice their opinions and participate in the wider conversations taking place about important social issues.”

The protests were timed to begin a week of activism at the United Nations, including a Youth Climate Summit on Saturday and a U.N. Climate Action Summit on Monday. A second worldwide walkout called Earth Strike is planned for Sept. 27.

The slogan on the GCS website gets right to the point: “Our house is on fire — let’s act like it. We demand climate justice for everyone.”

‘It’s our future that’s at stake': US students plan to skip school Friday to fight climate ‘emergency’The days of protest are an effort to coordinate different groups for different actions in different countries. Supporters who were backing The Global Climate Strike on Friday planned to join Earth Strike, another worldwide effort, in one week.

The face of the worldwide effort is Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, 16, who came to New York on a solar-powered sailboat to attend the strike in New York City and then the summit.

While Thunberg is not the organizer, she is a major motivating force. She gave the global movement a push starting in August 2018 when she began skipping school on Fridays to stand outside the Swedish parliament holding a sign protesting inaction on climate change.

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New York City’s Education Department announced that students wishing to attend a nationwide climate demonstration will have their absences excused.
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She has also met with Pope Francis who, she said, expressed support for the climate protests and has addressed the European Parliament.

“I want to make you panic, I want you to act as if your house was on fire,” Thunberg told European lawmakers. “A lot of politicians have told me that panicking does not do any good. I agree, but when your house is on fire and you want to prevent it from collapsing, it is better to panic a little.”

In a worldwide walkout in March, Thunberg said over 1 million people took part in 125 countries, citing numbers from climate action group 350.org.  

Thunberg was in Washington, D.C., to demonstrate in front of the White House and to testify before Congress. She also grabbed a meeting with former president Barack Obama, who ended the session with a fist bump.

Organizers claim their effort is being joined by 6,000 websites and major companies, including Tumblr, Kickstarter, WordPress, Seventh Generation and Patagonia.

Organizations backing Friday’s events include Fridays for Future, Zero Hour, National Children’s Campaign, OneMillionOfUs and 350.org.

On Friday, the event starts early with demonstrations as the sun rises on Pacific islands to underscore the danger of rising sea levels from ocean warming.

Events across the islands include mass sit-ins, marches, festivals, dialogues and art competitions.

You may like: 6 things to know about teenage climate change activist Greta Thunberg

Individual strikes were being organized by young people in their own towns and cities, similar to last year’s national school walkouts aimed at combating gun violence.

In Washington, students planned to gather off Pennsylvania Avenue for a march to Capitol Hill. U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, sponsor of the ambitious Green New Deal resolution that lays out goals and aspirations for tackling climate change, was scheduled to address the marchers.

In New York, crowds planned to rally in downtown Manhattan at noon to hear from young climate activists.

In San Francisco, organizers said their march would start at the local office of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who represents the area.

It’s not just students who are protesting. Susan Sattell, 59, a mother and member of participating organization Extinction Rebellion, planned to strike Friday. She said she joined the group after reading a United Nations report on species extinction this past May. 

“I overheard my daughter Emily and her friend talking about the report. They were counting, and her friend said ‘Wow, we’ll be 24 when extinction starts.’ And my daughter said, ‘that’s pretty old, but I want to live longer than that,’” Sattell said.