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Climate strikers send a message: "Put your planet and its people over profit."

"We are supposed to be the 'leaders of tomorrow', but are being forced to become the leaders of today because our current leaders refuse to hear our cries."

This week is Climate Week, coinciding with the UN Climate Change Summit. On September 25th, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will release its newest report. Every day this week Massive will be publishing articles and interviews with scientists, policy experts, and activists about climate change, all aspects of the new report, and the future of the planet. 

Massive and many other outlets have reported on the Climate Strikes, the United Nations, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Here instead, we gave some climate strikers from around the world the opportunity to speak directly, without our filter.

Climate strikers stand on a curb holding signs at Houdini Plaza, in Appleton, Wisconsin

Climate strikers at Houdini Plaza, Appleton, WI, USA

Courtesy of Madeleine McDermott  

Madeleine McDermott, 16 year old climate activist from Appleton, Wisconsin, USA, when asked why she was striking, said: 

I am striking because in order to change the world, facing a Climate Emergency, it's now or never.  Every day, I am depressed by the sheer size and severity of the Climate Crisis, and I can feel helpless in stopping it. Striking is an action that I know I can do, and it's proven to be effective in the past.  So why wouldn't I strike?

Climate strikers in Appleton, WI, USA, holding signs, one of which reads "I'm missing Area 51 for this."

Climate strikers at Houdini Plaza, Appleton, WI, USA

Courtesy of Madeleine McDermott 

Winter came a month late last year. Wisconsin is usually a very cold state but the average temperature for December was around 60 degrees Fahrenheit. When winter finally arrived, we were hit by the Polar Vortex (which I do know is moved by climate change).  And while summer temperatures haven't risen drastically yet, the amount of flooding we get year round is insane.

Ruby Sampson, of African Climate Alliance (ACA) Youth, Cape Town, South Africa: 

ACA is striking because we know our future is being destroyed by the emissions and pollution caused by the big gas, coal and oil corporations of South Africa, and the greed of our politicians who continue to turn a blind eye. We are supposed to be the 'leaders of tomorrow', but are being forced to become the leaders of today because our current leaders refuse to hear our cries. We are striking because we believe there is no other way to get our governments attention, because there is nothing else we can do. The majority of us are under the age of 18 and therefore can't vote, how else do we get the message across that this is a crisis? 

Two climate strikers stand on a stage about to give a speech in Cape Town, South Africa.

Courtesy of African Climate Alliance 

Massive:  Have you noticed climate change? What has changed?

RS: Of course we have, the Climate Crisis is a constant threat to the lives of South Africans and Africans alike. Droughts, floods and wildfires plague our beautiful land destroying homes and crops. These disasters are forcing people to relocate with nothing, driving up food prices and polluting the air and drinking water with chemicals, causing multiple health problems. We are the ones suffering right now from the consequences of the Climate Crisis. Honestly, there are too many examples to list. 

Climate strikes in South Africa holding a large sign that reads "System Change Not Climate Change!"

Courtesy of African Climate Alliance  

Massive:  If you could send a message to those who hold political power in climate policy — like prominent businessmen in heavily polluting industries or politicians who sit on relevant committees — what would it be? 

RS: Our message would be something along the lines of: why aren't you acting? The science is clear, why are you not stopping the mining and selling of fossil fuels? Why are you not divesting, and investing in renewable energy? Do you not care about the future of this country, the future of your children? In the words of Greta Thunberg, we need you to act like your house is on fire because it is. We need you to panic and then we need to you act. Coal is choking us — killing us — you are jeopardising the future of my generation, to line your pockets with dirty money. 

A crowd of climate strikers in Chicago, IL, USA, marching down the street holding signs and their fists in the air.

Climate strikers in Chicago, IL, USA

Illinois Youth Climate Strike 

Yvette Hupjé, climate striker and activist in Nairobi, Kenya:

I'm striking on both the 20th and the 21st. On the 20th, I'm protesting the lack of action on the climate crisis and plastic pollution (which is a serious issue here in Kenya). On the 21st, we are protesting the Ngong dumpsite which is literally in the middle of a settlement and is affecting the people who live there. 

Massive:  How have you noticed climate change?

YH: Every year we have a period of around two months with heavy rainfall from April to June. The rains were not as strong as they always are. I (and many others) strongly believe that this is a result of climate change.

Not many people here are even aware of the impacts of climate change (or that it exists, for that matter). We need people to make educated choices on what they're buying and where they're buying it from. 

The government needs to put bans on single-use plastics or introduce biodegradable alternatives. We also need better waste management. I have a petition to ban plastic bottles (one of the biggest pollutants in Kenya) on change.org.

Massive:  If you could send a message to those who hold political power in climate policy, what would it be?

YH:  I would probably explain to them the severity of climate change and why it needs to be considered an emergency. I would show them all the catastrophic events that would take place and why the money they get from their factories isn't worth it. 

An aerial shot of a crowd of climate strikers marching down the street in Chicago, IL, USA.

Climate strikers in Chicago, IL, USA

Illinois Youth Climate Strike 

Illinois Youth Climate Strike (ICYS) organizers, Chicago, IL, USA: 

In the Midwest, our summers have been getting hotter and hotter, that along with an increase in flooding has negatively affected corn and soy crops that the Midwest economy depends on. If we don't take action on climate change, more and more crops will begin to fail causing shortages and ruining many state's economies and hurting Midwest farmers.  

Massive:  What actions do you want people to take? What about politicians?

ICYS: Our goal is to raise awareness for climate action. For politicians, we want them to see this as a movement as their future and current voters demanding them to enact and pass policies that will guarantee our generation a future. For other citizens, we want them to learn more about this movement, if they didn't know much about climate change policies before, we want them to look it up after seeing us march on their way to work, we want them to get involved with the movement after seeing everyone else striking for a better future.  

Massive: What message would you send to politicians?

ICYS:  Our future is in your hands, if you choose money instead of our lives, you are condemning billions of people to death by natural disaster, famine, disease, and political upheaval. You are the people in the world who can make the biggest impact, negative or positive, and we are demanding, begging you to choose positive. Your temporary income is not more important than the state of our entire world, than the lives of your children, grandchildren, children across the world who can't eat because it was so hot their parent's crops failed, or children whose families are forced to move due to rising sea levels. Put your planet and its people over profit. 

A shot of the backs of a crowd of climate strikers in Chicago, IL, USA. One is holding a sign that reads "This is a climate crisis."


Interviews were lightly edited for clarity.