Heschel Students Join the Fight for Climate Justice

By Hana Halff ‘21

On Friday September 20, many Heschel students left their last period classes, packed up their books, and departed from school to attend the global climate strike near Foley Square. There they were met with thousands of other children and teens leaving school to express their beliefs on climate and the urgency for change in policy and taking action. 

Organized by The Climate Strike Coalition, Greta Thunberg the sixteen-year-old Swedish activist, and other young climate advocates, the rally preceded the U.N. climate summit, at which Thunberg spoke. The date also had a special resonance  because it marked the second anniversary of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Many strikers came that day to commemorate those who died as a result of Hurricane Maria.

Perhaps the real significance of the strike was the fact that it was led by young people. At the gathering near Foley Square, children of all ages could be seen: some with wide smiles, energetic and excited to take matters into their own hands and face the issue; some distressed, with expressions of panic on their faces. Elementary school students chanted and thrust handmade signs into the air with slogans like, “This can’t wait until I’m older!” into the air.  

 Like the New York City public schools, Heschel excused absences for students attending the strike. However, students were also required to obtain a parent signature in order to leave. Some members of Heschel’s Social Justice Minyan debated if the parent approval policy was in line with the values of the strike. Though it appeared necessary for safety, some students wondered if parent signatures should be required in a movement meant to empower youth.  

Also unique to this global climate protest was an intense focus on intersectionality. Many young activists came demanding justice for indiginous communities and communities of color. Some protested ICE and others pleaded for gender equality. The crowd totaled at least 60,000, according to an afternoon estimate from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office. In a sign of how difficult crowd sizes can be to pin down, organizers put the figure at 250,000. Of the thousands of protesters who attended the NYC rally on Friday, all definitely did not share the same views on every issue. However, a love for our planet and a fear for our future united those of different backgrounds. 

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