St. Louis youth gather downtown to demand action regarding climate change


Maria Newton

Senior Noah Wright delivers a speech at the St. Louis Youth Climate Strike US in front of a crowd of 100. Wright was a lead organizer for the event after being inspired by what he learned in AP Environmental Science and Honors Environmental Sustainability. “For decades, our politicians have failed us by doing so little when we need so much. It is my hope they see crowds like this across the country and realize that the time for denial is over,” Wright said. “To our politicians we have one message: take action against climate change or we will vote you out.”

The Youth Climate Strike US held a national walkout today, March 15, attended by students across the United States as part of a global movement; it is estimated that about one million students worldwide in 125 different countries took part, with more than 100 students in St. Louis going on strike in front of the Old Courthouse Building.  

Protestors lifted signs and chanted “this is what democracy looks like” and “hey hey, ho ho, fossil fuels have got to go” to the beating of a vegan drum. Activists also gave speeches, highlighting the voices of lead organizer and Radical Revolution founder Fatima Bucio, co-founder of Earth Defense Coalition Amber Duval, lead organizer and Ladue Horton Watkins High School junior Sunny Lu, Sunrise STL organizer Ben Eisenberg and lead organizer and senior Noah Wright.

“With an emergency of this magnitude facing our entire planet, one would think our lawmakers would act to save us and the generations to come. Of course, we are all here today because that has not happened,” Wright said. “Instead, we have congressmen throwing snowballs on Capitol Hill, and a sitting U.S. President who doesn’t know the difference between climate and weather.”

Dani Fischer
26 of the 30 West students who attended the Youth Climate Strike US in St. Louis pose for a picture under the arch. The national walkout was for young people to voice their discontent with inaction in the government regarding climate change. “[I decided to come] because the world is dying,” senior Lizzy Calvert said. “We need to be careful.”

The crowd featured 30 West students, making it the most represented high school in attendance.

“I just thought it would be a good idea to show my support for this issue that has been prevalent since the dawn of time and give the government an idea that the youth is concerned about this and that we have a right to give more to our environment than is already happening,” senior Joaquin Rendon said. “Instead of just standing around, letting things happen naturally, with strikes like this, it shows that there are people who are concerned about this, and they’re concerned right now, so they need to do something right now. [Climate change] is not just going to go away. It needs to be thoroughly explored rather than ignored.”

One concern voiced by protestors, like junior Emma Caplinger, is that Earth will not be a suitable home in the future due to rising sea levels and the increased frequency and magnitude of natural disasters.

“People should care about climate change because it’s affecting our future and our children’s future. If we want to continue to live on this planet, we should try and save it,” Caplinger said. “At this point, we’re working against it. [Even though we can’t vote], we can still influence people who can vote and educate them. If we don’t encourage them to learn what it is that [young people] know, then we’re not doing our part.”

Dani Fischer
Junior Ulaa Kuziez protests at the climate strike outside of the Old Courthouse downtown. Out of the approximately 100 people at the strike, 30 were from West. “It’s important for students to voice their opinions on this because it’s our future and our generation that we’re fighting for. That’s why we’re here today,” Kuziez said.

There were also several adults in attendance, many of them seasoned activists who have been fighting for climate action for decades.

“I went to the climate march in Washington, D.C. two years ago, and I have the same protest sign now–nothing’s changed, it’s only gotten worse. We need to address climate change, and we don’t have an indefinite time to address it. If we don’t address it in the next decade, we are going to be sorry,” protester Sherida Tollefson said. “I think strikes like this are important to get young people engaged because we can bring about change. I went to college during the Vietnam War, and we brought about change; the students and activists brought about change. We can do it, we just need to get involved.”

After the scheduled speeches, the floor was opened up to any members of the walkout who wanted to share their thoughts. Two women took the time to encourage people to consider switching to a vegan, plant-based diet and nine-year-old Lucy Shayakhmetova took the megaphone after them. She skipped her elementary school class to join the protest.

“I don’t want our world to be destroyed; I would like to have a planet for me and everyone else,” Shayakhmetova said. “I have stage fright, but I definitely like going to events like this. I’m thinking I want to be a lawmaker, so maybe I could help make laws that will protect our planet.”

Her mother, Kathy Heffern is supportive of her daughter’s interest in fighting for action against climate change by legislatures.

“This is not my main cause. This is her main cause. We’re here because she wants to be,” Heffern said. “Young people are the people who will be most impacted by this issue, so I think that their voices are the most powerful.”

Several attendees are planning the next walkout demanding climate change action from the United States government. The event will occur sometime in May, although the exact date is not known yet.

“The work is far from over. We have to constantly put pressure on our politicians to address this issue or it will not get fixed. It is a huge task to reduce climate change and cut carbon emissions,” Wright said. “We can’t just give up after this. We have to use this attention the world has given us because of this strike to make real change.”