Why Climate Activists Are Shutting Down DC
Like many people my age, my passion for the environment began as a child admiring the Crocodile Hunter. His enthusiasm about protecting wildlife was infectious, inspiring me to check out numerous library books about animals every week.
While Irwin planted the seed in my head, it wasn’t until high school that I fully absorbed the seriousness of the situation.
Learning about the industrial revolution and the catastrophic environmental impacts it had finally connected the dots. In science classes, we watched videos about how development and pollution were destroying wildlife habitats, causing a manmade mass extinction of life on earth.
We learned about how greenhouse gases are causing global temperatures and sea levels to rise as the ice caps melt. Worst of all, my peers and I discovered the massive disconnect between science and public policy.
Nearly all climate scientists agree that Earth is enduring a manmade climate crisis of epic proportions. Sadly, their dire warnings have fallen upon the deaf ears of politicians around the globe, who either don’t realize the seriousness of the crisis or simply don’t care.
Climate activists like myself are ready to change that.
Youth leaders from around the world are calling for a Global Climate Strike from September 20–27 to pressure politicians to listen to the science and take monumental action. There are over 600 events happening worldwide, including more than 130 across the United States throughout September.
What better place to make our message heard than Washington D.C., the capital city of one of the world’s biggest polluters?
Inspired by Greta Thunberg’s school climate strike over a year ago, students and workers alike will start the week by joining the youth-led call for climate action with a march from the White House to Capitol Hill.
On September 23, coinciding with the U.N. Action Climate Summit in New York City, a diverse coalition of activists from various organizations are coming together to shut down the nation’s capital.
The goal is to bring DC to a standstill by setting up strategic blockades at key intersections around the heart of the city. By shutting down business as usual for politicians, lobbyists and other powerful decision-makers, we will demonstrate the country’s strong desire for climate action.
Just as the civil rights movement engaged in civil disobedience to achieve change, we believe the same kind of action is necessary for the climate crisis to be taken seriously.
“[Politicians] ignore our will as voters, our rallies, our calls to action and even our pleas, so I am no longer interested in asking,” said Kathleen Brophy, an organizer for 350 DC. “The severity of the issue and complete lack of response from elected officials necessitates mass civil disobedience.”
Some groups involved have an environmental background, like Sunrise Movement, Extinction Rebellion, and 350 DC, while others have a different focus, like Code Pink and DSA DC, but all of us are coming together behind the following demands:
1. A Green New Deal
2. Respect of Indigenous Land and Sovereignty
3. Environmental Justice
4. Protection and Restoration of Biodiversity
5. Implementation of Sustainable Agriculture
The full details behind each of those demands can be found at strikedc.org.
The Amazon Rainforest, home to at least 10 percent of known biodiversity, is burning at record rates. Increased carbon dioxide levels are causing oceans to rapidly acidify, putting coral reefs and the aquatic life that relies on them at risk of soon disappearing. Coastal and island communities are being ravaged by intensifying natural disasters and rising sea levels, causing refugee crises which have only just begun.
We are seeing this firsthand in my own watershed, the Chesapeake Bay, with communities like Smith Island and Tangier slowly eroding away with the rising tide. Visiting these island communities of what is now only a few hundred inhabitants and learning about how their way of life is disappearing was heart wrenching. Imagine how much worse it will be when entire countries go under water?
Our situation is dire. The time for petitions and permitted rallies is over. The world needs climate action before it is too late.
“The crisis is just escalating so quickly — people are talking about it more so people are more open to doing things like this,” said Amanda Trebach, a member of National Nurses United. “Things need to change, and things need to change so quickly that we can’t have business as usual.”