Young Activists hope to change current environmental policy

Meghan Dincler | Staff Writer

Mason students are stepping up and speaking out for the sake of the planet. 

September 20th was the day of the Global Climate Strike, an event organized by Fridays for Future, a group started by Swedish 16-year old Greta Thunberg that encourages youth to stand up and make their voices heard on the issue of climate change. Thunberg started the movement around a year ago by leaving school and sitting outside the Swedish Parliament building to protest inaction by the government in the department of global emissions. Now, Friday the 20th saw almost 4 million people around the globe striking from school or work to protest a lack of action from the government.

Three of those 4 million include Junior Kaitlyn Goecke, Senior Maanasa Mendu, and Junior Megan Carroll, who participated in the strike at Cincinnati City Hall on the 20th. Goecke said she was determined to help make a change, even if it meant missing a few classes, as she left school to travel to City Hall and protest.

“Climate change is a huge issue that we’re facing in the world,” Goecke said. “I’m tired of hearing all the negativity, like people just giving up hope. If you give up hope, you don’t take the initiative to go get stuff done. [Initiative is] exactly what we need.”

Carroll was encouraged to protest because of her drive to take that initiative and make a choice in local government, even if she is still short of the voting age. She said getting out and making her demands known was one of the biggest factors in her involvement.

“It’s great to sit there on our phone and Tweet and be on Instagram, liking pictures of what we want to change, but if we don’t get out and use our voice or vote, then it’s not going to do anything,” Carroll said. “I think protesting is one way that we can show politicians what we will be voting for.”

Mendu, who helped start the Mason Environmental Club at MHS, said it was very inspiring for her to see teens take charge and do more than just like Instagram posts. This is one reason, she cited, that drove her to participate in the strike.

“I think it’s a pretty big movement, and it’s very youth-led,” Mendu said. “It was very energizing because there are a lot of students and adults also there. So, there’s so much support. I thought, ‘Wow this is awesome. We have a voice.’”

However, Mendu also says it’s not all perfect, at least when it came to the Cincinnati branch of the worldwide protest. There were elements of the protest that she believes could lead to problems in the future and prevent the movement from gaining the maximum amount of people that it has the potential to.

“I think it also needs to be slightly focused,” Mendu said. “And every time they go into [chanting] f- capitalism, or eat the rich, and whatnot, I feel like that just distances a lot of people from the movement. It makes it very polarizing.”

In spite of these issues, there was still a turnout of around 300 people at the strike. Due to the large number of people, they offered a youth open mic where students could take the megaphone and share their stories with the crowd. Goecke took advantage of this, utilizing it during the protest to show her passion for the issue at hand.

“I was so inspired by that moment… It’s very hard for me to do things in public because of my social anxiety,” Goecke said. “For me, it was like, climate change is bigger than any of my issues myself, and it just inspired me enough to go up and speak and it came from the heart.”

For Mendu though, she said her inspiration came more from the pride in her school and her peers when she noted the amount of Mason students putting themselves out there to make a difference. At least six MHS students attended the strike, with three of them speaking at the open mic.

“It was very cool to also see the people who are working on it,” Mendu said. “I was so proud when six people went, including four people from Mason Environmental Club. That was really cool.” 

Both Geocke and Mendu said they were very moved by the strike, and both even said they plan to participate in more of these events in the future. For Goecke, she said it helped bring hope to a situation that is often portrayed as very bleak. 

“I want to just get more people involved in a cleaner lifestyle and help to get at least our state government to enact some laws for climate change,” Goecke said. “Sure, climate change is a big issue, but have hope in your heart that we can try to get things done.”

Photos by Meghan Dincler.