My name is Feliquan Charlemagne, and I am the National Creative Director of US Youth Climate Strike, an organization at the forefront of the rising Global Climate Strike Movement.
As I sat to write this article, Hurricane Dorian’s impact on the Caribbean was still unknown. As it ravaged the Bahamas, I read headlines like, “Hurricane Dorian could hit Florida as ‘extremely dangerous’ Category 4 storm.” And I sat in Florida thinking, “I can only hope that my state and its people do not take too much damage.”
Sadly, this is not my first battle with these natural disasters. I was born on an island in the US Virgin Islands called St. Thomas. At two months old, I was forced to move from St. Thomas to a small town called Ocala, Florida, due to an already unstable economy and topography that was constantly being damaged and destabilized by worsening hurricanes, rising tides, and rising temperatures.
But why is this happening? The science is actually quite simple; countries all over the world have emitted tons of CO2 and other greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. Greenhouse gasses are primarily emitted from the burning of coal, oil, and gas (fossil fuels) for energy, or through methane from various agricultural practices. These greenhouse gasses, which used to be deep in the ground, stay in the atmosphere and trap heat on our planet. An average temperature increase of 1.5°C may not seem like much, but if our planet heats above that, it would be catastrophic.
We’ve already seen the hottest summers and worst hurricane seasons in global history; we’ve seen extreme wildfires and extreme flooding; and we’ve seen mass migrations as already destabilized lands are becoming uninhabitable. If we don’t stop emitting carbon by 2030, this is not even close to what’s to come.
The Global Climate Strike movement is fighting to make sure these greenhouse gasses and fossil fuels stay out of our air. We’re fighting to hold corporations accountable, which are responsible for over 71% of these emissions, and to hold governments accountable that have failed to protect us from this corporate greed. It all started with Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old student from Sweden who began striking from school on Fridays outside of her country’s parliament in August 2018 to raise awareness for what is now dubbed the climate crisis. While thousands of students strike every week worldwide, there have been two mass strikes in March and May, which millions joined. September 20th will be the third and promises to be the largest protest of climate inaction in history.
If, and only if, we set our sights high can we move from an era of environmental degradation and usher in an era of environmental justice. An era in which we value communities at the frontlines of the climate crisis, and support people that the past actions of our governments and corporations have hurt.
If, and only if, we are bold can we move from an era of ecological degradation and usher in an era of ecological justice. An era in which we protect and support biodiversity, in which we help nourish and keep clean the ecosystems that have breathed life into our planet.
If, and only if, we are bold can we move from an era of economic turmoil, into an era of economic justice. An era in which we build economies in which corporate profit is not the bottom line for success and the top line for value, and in which millions of good jobs are created for the forgotten while we invest in green energy and sustainable infrastructure for all.
If, and only if we are bold, can we usher ourselves into the era of a Green New Deal.
They named us Generation Z because they thought we’d be the last. My generation refuses to be the last generation. My generation refuses to be Generation Z. My generation will be Generation GND.
Feliquan Charlemagne, National Creative Director of US Youth Climate Strike, is a 17 year old climate activist who was born in St. Thomas of the US Virgin Islands. At only 2 months old, Feliquan moved to where he lives today because of an economy that was only continuously worsened by the effects of the climate crisis. He now uses his creative skills and his experiences both in the Caribbean and in Florida to show the world the realities of an ever-worsening climate crisis, and to illustrate that we can build a just and prosperous future through the Climate Strike movement.