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Hunter Students Demand Change at Climate Strike

Amela Paljevic gave up animal products over two years ago. She eliminated fast fashion from her life over one year ago. Yet despite her individual actions, the more she thinks about climate change, the more afraid she becomes.

“I feel I’m being selfish if I have a child,” said Paljevic, a senior at Hunter College. “Why bring a child into this world when it’s this fucked up?”

Left, Natalia Kijek holding sign that says, "I've Seen Better Cabinets at Ikea." Right, Amela Paljevic holding up sign that says, "It's Not 2 Late 4 Action."
Natalia Kijek (left) and Amela Paljevic (right) holding up their signs during Friday’s Climate Strike.
Photo by Melissa Lent

Paljevic is one of the tens of thousands who marched in New York City’s Climate Strike this past Friday. Organizers held the strike three days before the U.N. Climate Summit to demand action on climate change issues. Top concerns included phasing out fossil fuels, protecting indigenous lands and investing in communities at the forefront of poverty and pollution, according to the official Climate Strike website.

 

“When you hear about how we only have 11 years left on the planet before climate change’s effects are totally irreversible, that’s really discouraging I think,” said Villacres. “But I feel like it’s more like a call to action. Like I should do something and get involved.”

 

The protest stretched from Foley Square to Battery Park in Manhattan. 350.org, a major environmental organization and co-organizer of the strike, estimated that 250,000 people participated. An independent count remains to be determined. Joann Villacres, a junior at Hunter studying political science, said the Climate Strike served as her first protest.

Joann Villacres coloring a poster that says,
Joann Villacres prepares a poster for the Climate Strike.
Photo by Melissa Lent

“When you hear about how we only have 11 years left on the planet before climate change’s effects are totally irreversible, that’s really discouraging I think,” said Villacres. “But I feel like it’s more like a call to action. Like I should do something and get involved.”

Villacres is an intern for Hunter’s chapter of NYPIRG, or the New York Public Interest Research Group. The organization works to engage students in public policy issues such as the DREAM Act, the MTA, and the environment. Ayesha Schmitt, one of Hunter’s NYPIRG coordinators, said they organized students to attend the climate strike as an entry point into activism.

“Protests I think are a really great start to get politically involved because you feel so much great energy at these kinds of events,” said Schmitt. “It should not be the last thing students do, but that can hopefully lead them to doing other events where they put more pressure on our political leaders to make sure that our voices are being heard.”

Three Hunter students marching during Climate Strike
Hunter students marching through the streets to Battery Park.
Photo by Melissa Lent

Hunter students lent their voices to resounding chants during the march. They held up signs with phrases such as, “I’ve seen better cabinets at Ikea,” or “Let the Earth be cool again.” They stood in the sweltering sun as Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist featured in news outlets across the world, told them their home was on fire.

“We all live here,” said Thunberg. “And we will not just stand aside and watch. We are united behind the science and we will do everything in our power to stop this crisis from getting worse.”

Hunter College NYPIRG students with posters at Climate Strike
A group of Hunter students organized by Hunter NYPIRG to attend the strike.
Photo by Melissa Lent

Thunberg’s age reflected the average demographic of the strike. The New York City Department of Education excused public-school students from class to attend the march, with parental permission. Walking down the protest route to Battery Park, Hunter strikers mingled with masses of other students from elementary school to college. Villacres said it’s important for her generation to band together to tackle climate change.

“All these old people that are making decisions up in like Congress, they’re all gonna be dead soon,” said Villacres. “That’s my future. So I should have the right to fight for it and do something about it. I feel like more young people need to have that mentality.”

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