Local Students Planning Climate Strike Tomorrow in Courthouse

A group of local students is organizing a demonstration in Arlington tomorrow (Friday) as part of a nationwide climate change strike ahead of the UN Climate Change panel.

Teenage organizers of the Northern Virginia effort say they’re organizing a teach-in about environmentalism from 8-11 a.m. at American University, followed by a rally beginning at 11:45 a.m. outside Arlington County government headquarters (2100 Clarendon Blvd) in Courthouse, to help the planet they’re about to inherit.

“The most important thing is to educate,” said organizer and Yorktown High School student Hannah Knittig. “That goes for government officials and also to the public.”

The students organizers are working with the Northern Virginia chapter of the Youth Climate Strike organization, and is hoping to attract attendees and passersby to the Courthouse rally with speeches, a voter registration table, and posters the local effects of climate change.

“I hope they can see that they can get involved from home where they live,” said another organizer, Cecelia O’Sullivan, 15, at the Potomac School in McLean. “They can see that this is really an accessible moment happening all over the country.”

The teen organizers who spoke to ARLnow cited concerns about global warming raising flood threats and spawning more extreme storms, also noting how activities like fracking pollute the environment and contribute to the problem.

“Our water supply and our excessive need of products in Arlington impacts people who live in Blacksburg and all over Virginia,” said Knitting. “I definitely know that my lifestyle, and my family’s lifestyle, does impact other people.”

“Seeing all these very small occurrences, which at first they don’t link immediately link to climate change. But once you dig deeper, you just see it’s all part of that larger effect of climate change,” said Saahithi Achanta, 17, who is also helping organize the event from Chantilly High School.

Knittig, 16, said that around eighty students from across the Northern Virginia area have signed up to join the Arlington strike, and another 80 students have pledged to attend the same-day sister strike in Richmond.

The strikes were inspired by Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg who criticized Congress yesterday for failing to combat climate change. The 16-year old has been credited for inspiring youth-led activism worldwide for her commitment to environmentalism and willingness to call out governments she believes are slow walking solutions.

“A lot of the time the people that are making the big changes in the world are adults,” said O’Sullivan. “And she’s only a year only than me, and she has Aspergers, and she making this huge impact in the world.”

Arlington Public Schools is allowing students to skip class for the event, provided their parents approve.

“While we do not actively promote and encourage participation in events that take time from the school day, we will permit students’ participation in the climate walkouts on Friday, September 20, with parent permission,” Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia told ARLnow earlier this week.

Students interested in attending the strike must provide written permission from their parents to cut school before the school day starts Friday morning, a policy Bellavia noted was implemented last year during the massive walk-outs protesting gun violence after the Parkland school shooting.

Several of the climate strike student organizers attended those marches and said it inspired them to get more involved with activism. They said this Friday’s event has been tricky to plan considering it means advocating for people to miss school and work, but added that it’s worth the effort.

“We are going to be the ones that have to clean this up but we shouldn’t have to wait until we’re old enough to vote or run for office to do so,” said Achanta.

Several companies are also planning to take part of the nationwide event, including Amazon, Google, and Microsoft.

During a press conference earlier today in D.C., Amazon founder Jeff Bezos unveiled a plan for the company to help address climate change. Addressing Amazon’s HQ2 plans in Arlington, Bezos also pledged to “work very hard with the community to make sure [its] presence there ends up being a net positive rather than a net negative” reported the Washington Business Journal’s Alex Koma.

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