‘We Have To Live With It’: Students Demand Climate Action Today To Ensure A Greener Tomorrow

Amritha Karthikeyan, a senior BASIS Phoenix student and member of Arizona Youth Climate Strike, said she was happy to join the strike in D.C. on Sept. 20, 2019, because she couldn't attend the protest she helped plan in Phoenix. (Photo by Kailey Broussard/Cronkite News)

By James Carr and Wissam Melhem

PHOENIX – Young people around the globe took to the streets Friday to demand that global leaders act to mitigate climate change today to ensure there’ll be a tomorrow.

Covering Climate Now series

About 2,000 people marched in Phoenix, and similar events were scheduled in Tucson, Flagstaff, Yuma, Payson, Prescott, Show Low, Scottsdale, Mesa and Tempe. In cities from Los Angeles, California, to Cape Town, South Africa, and Kiev, Ukraine, thousands turned out to address the rise of greenhouse-gas emissions and the subsequent warming of the planet.

The strikes, which came three days before world leaders gather in New York City for the U.N 2019 Climate Action Summit, were inspired by the activism of 16-year-old Greta Thunberg of Sweden, who began protesting alone outside the Swedish Parliament more than a year ago. Since then, she has traveled to the U.S. on a zero-emissions sailboat and testified in front of Congress, the U.N., the European Union and other world organizations.

Amritha Karthikeyan of Phoenix was in Washington on Friday and missed the climate strike she helped organize back home, but that was OK with her. The high school senior attended a companion rally with thousands of others in front of the U.S. Capitol.

“I wanted to come to the D.C. Climate Strike to show my support for climate issues and show that I’m dedicated to solve the issue even in the littlest way I can,” said Karthikeyan, who was in Washington for a conference anyway.


Environmental activist and Chicago resident Lynae Samson, 59, was visiting her sister and decided to attend the strike. Samson would like to see more alternative energy, less use of fossil fuels and less single-use plastics. (Photo by Jake Eldridge/Cronkite News)

The 17-year-old, who attends BASIS Phoenix, was among a handful of Arizonans who joined thousands on Capitol Hill as part of the Global Climate Strike. On a hot, sunny day, they marched from John Marshall Park to the Capitol, where the list of speakers included Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson, and Tokata Iron Eyes, 15, an environmental activist from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, whose reservation is in North and South Dakota.

Grijalva echoed the message of rally organizers when he told the crowd there is a need to “protect all life, not just protect the profits,” before calling on his colleagues in Congress to take urgent action.

“Time is not on our side when it comes to the climate crisis and the need of systematic, strong and powerful and bold solutions,” he said. “As time passes, this climate crisis becomes worse and worse and worse.”

Marchers in Washington waved signs and banners demanding that the government tackle climate change, stop taking money from the fossil fuel industry and pass the comprehensive Green New Deal proposed by progressive Democrats in Congress.

Demonstrators expressed their anger and frustration as they marched with chants that included “Hey, hey, ho ho, climate change has got to go!” and “Vote Trump out!”

Scores of students skipped classes to attend the march. Layal Rabat, an adult volunteer for the Phoenix Restoration Project, said that makes sense because young people will be most affected by climate change.

“They are super-smart, super-capable of leading their own movements,” said Rabat, who accompanied Karthikeyan to the D.C. conference and march. “In a few years, if things keep going the way that they are going, nobody is going to be able to go to school at all.”

 Protesters hold up signs during D.C.’s Youth Climate Strike Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. (Photo by Kailey Broussard/Cronkite News)

After marchers arrived at the Capitol, Iron Eyes – a leading figure in the youth environmental movement along with Thundberg – led the crowd in an indigenous prayer before speakers took the stage.

The rally’s message was loud and clear: Enough is enough, the climate needs immediate action.

“We are the generation that has to deal with the problems that these fossil fuel industries have created,” Karthikeyan said, “so we are the ones that have to fight for it the most, because we have to live with it.”

Friday’s youth climate march in Phoenix, which is meant to send a message to state officials, began at 2 p.m. at Maricopa County Courthouse and proceeded west to the state Capitol. On its Facebook page, Arizona Youth Climate Strike, one of the organizers, said activists are “calling for the protection and restoration of 50% of the world’s lands and oceans, including a halt to all deforestation, by 2030.”

The organization’s website lists further demands, such as Phoenix declaring a climate emergency and Arizona transitioning to “a 100% clean energy grid with nuclear … by 2035 and must transition off of nuclear by 2050.”

Aniket Pandey, youth climate ambassador, attended the strike with the hopes of not only bringing more awareness to the issue but to also educate those watching the strike.

“I feel you can’t make a solution without addressing the problem and identifying the actual problem,” Pandey said. “You can have a strike, you can have people show up, but if you have people talking about way complex stuff like, ‘You should do this and this, and buy this and plant trees,’ but (if) they don’t know why we’re doing this or they don’t know how we’re doing this, there is no point.


Thousands gather in downtown Los Angeles, California at Pershing Square to protest the lack of action regarding climate change prevention legislation. (Photo by Erica Morris/Cronkite News)

“I feel like the awareness and informing the audience is the most important part of this entire climate strike.”

Although it’s important to act against climate change, Pandey said getting real policy changes will require realistic goals.

“I personally don’t want to see way too ambitious goals because I believe you won’t have support of the people,” Pandey said. “If you go for a goal like, ‘In five years I want full renewable energy and no fossil fuels,’ that’s unrealistic and won’t get any support from any of the people; you will just get support from the extremes and you need support from the wide public in order to get policies done and enacted.”

Video by Cronkite News reporters Jordan Evans and Melanie Porter.
Cronkite News reporter Kailey Broussard contributed to this reporting.

This story is part of Elemental: Covering Sustainability, a new multimedia collaboration between Cronkite NewsArizona PBSKJZZKPCCRocky Mountain PBS and PBS SoCal.


  1. How about sending all these delicate geniuses to India, China, or Southeast Asia (by rowboat of course) to see how REAL pollution works. That area has been given “pollution credits” for decades and changed nothing, while the U.S. and the west has had to tighten their belts to make up the difference.

  2. These kids give this old man hope for the future. To think that the billions of people on this planet with our concrete cities, our smokestack and vehicle emissions, our razing of the forests, our polluting the oceans with trash, our refusal to face the facts that most scientists and many nations are trying to deal with — to think that those don’t have a major negative impact on our ecosystem is whistling in the dark, or tweeting lies.

    Yes, climates change. The dinosaurs were done in by a massive volcano eruption that changed things for their worse. But has anyone noticed that it is hotter each year here in Southern Arizona, that our A/C usage — and electrical bills — are higher each year? Or that during our monsoon season the storm cells are smaller and more intense? Or that hurricanes and typhoons are nastier and more destructive? Ask the folks in Houston or New Orleans.

    I’m not going to argue C02 or cow farts — but the cumulative impact of humankind remaking the world to our liking — and corporate profit — is obvious except to those blinded by ideology. No, I’m not giving up my A/C or my truck, but how about more solar and wind power to provide the fuel? How about more electric vehicles, made affordable? How about less forest burning and more tree planting? How about serious consideration of a Green New Deal and the alternative jobs it would create?

    And how about showing those kids some gratitude for doing what our generations have failed to do, which put us in the dire situation we are now? I, for one, thank them.

    • Corporate greed? No, it’s the Public Institutions of Indoctrination (liberals) that are spreading the hate, fear and misinformation. All to attack capitalism and send the White American Male back to the cave while enriching themselves.

      “Ex-UA President Ann Weaver Hart made $800K in 2 years since stepping down from job”

      Just wondering, have liberals ever heard of the Scientific Method? Go ahead, prove and duplicate that prosperous Americans are killing the planet. It’s never been proven and everytime there is a change to the ‘models’, the theory was false.

      And oh yeah, about those trees, don’t you know that there are more trees on the planet today? Why? Because men and women, Americans, planted them through good forestry management.


      Ignorance or lies from above?

      • Weaver’s outrageous salary was approved by the UA Board of Regents, which include present and former consultants, a real estate developer, a private jet sales manager, an analyst for Dupont, an investment banker, a law firm partner, a surgeon,politicians and businessmen. “Liberal” institutions of indoctrination?

        And I didn’t say it’s just Americans killing the planet — it’s world-wide and it’s all connected. We plant trees while the Amazon rain forest is being burned to make room for cattle to feed us (us world-wide) Big Macs. So, yes, corporate greed.

        BTW — last Sunday we had the second big rain of the current monsoon season, over two inches. In 15 minutes! But I don’t want to confuse anyone with the facts.

  3. The Earth’s climate is perfectly capable changing all by itself without any help from mankind. Just ask the dinosaurs.

  4. Oh, so Amritha Karthikeyan was in a conference in DC ANYWAY. That makes all the difference! That way she couldn’t be accused of wasting fossil fuels or polluting the atmosphere to go there instead of staying in Phoenix for the protest she helped plan. By the way, I’m glad Rahooie Grizelda could make the trip back to DC as well. Of course if he RAN all the way back, he could lose weight AND save the planet.

  5. As a “young person” myself (highschool)I’ve got to say I find this ridiculous.
    What are we supposed to do about climate change? Whatever we do, it will have very little effect on global climate. We all know the phrase “Think locally, act globally.” It’s what these protesters are (partially) trying to adhere to. The problem is, that’s not how things work. Historian Brion McClanahan has a much better catchphrase: “Think locally, act locally.”

    Things that happen at the local level will affect only the local level. It’s pretty easy to understand. What we do here, on our local level, will ultimately have minuscule effects on the global climate.

  6. How about depriving them of CARS until age 30 or so that way they do not pollute the earth even more! Bicycles only, walking as noted no AC or COOLING, limit winter temps to Max of 60 Deg for all who believe this stuff and don’t want to beleive the ‘scientists’ that they need to do their part.

    Study geology a little bit and see how the earth has developed over the years.

  7. This is why NEVER SENT YOUR CHILDREN OR GRANDCHILDREN TO PUBLIC GOVERNMENT RUN INDOCTRINATION CENTERS. Private school or home school. Not one of these alarmist predictions have come true. ZERO, NADA, ZIP.

  8. Hopefully she took her moms Prius to DC and not some fossil fueled carbon pproducing jet to make her point?

    The Oracle

  9. We should do what we can always to conserve resources, not waste, don’t pollute, make do instead of buying and discarding. The sun ultimately controls our climate. For most of geologic time, Earth has been warmer than it is currently.

  10. The Global Warming community has ignored the earth’s history of Global Ice ages every 10,000 years (10K, 20K, 30, 40k, 50K years ago). We do not know what causes them; we are due for another. The community has also ignores the earth’s 600 year cooling and warning cycle. 300 years ago, Europe suffered a minor ice age. (No one noticed it in North America; we did not have good records them. We are now at the upper end of the 600 year cycle. What are we doing to prepare for next global ice age?

  11. CO2 is not a pollutant. Plants need it to grow. In the 1970’s an 1980’s I read lots of articles about the desertification of the planet. Now I see articles about the greening of the earth. Some of this is due to tree planting efforts, but a large part is due to higher CO2 levels making plants grow better.

  12. Let’s have an entire month of climate action. We can start by turning off the AC in schools. Next May or June would be good. That way we can show these kids that we are in solidarity with them. And also teach them the reality of a “green” future.

  13. Indoctrination works really well, and we have history to prove that. Hitler’s Germany, The USSR, Communist China, Castro’s Cuba, North Korea, Darwin’s Theory, and lasly The US Education System. Oh, that was a Freudian slip.

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