'If Our Leaders Don't Act, Vote Them Out': Young People Demand Action On Climate Change

Sep 20, 2019

"Al Gore was right."

"There is no Planet B."

"Climate inaction is genocide."

"We stand for all people and all nations."

Those were some of the words on posters and chants at Friday's Climate Change Strike. Some Cincinnati area high school students in Young Activists Coalition organized the rally in support of the Green New Deal and against government inaction to protect the environment.

Seventeen-year-old Isabella Guinigundo is one of the organizers of the strike. She says climate change feels like a dark cloud looming over her generation.

"To me, I feel like if we don't stand up, if we don't say anything, then I'm going to lose the only home I've ever known and that's this planet," Guinigundo says.

She says it feels like it's her responsibility to do something, especially knowing the negative impact climate change already has on communities of color.

Students from Xavier University, University of Cincinnati, Walnut Hills High School and SCPA gather to chant.
Credit Ambriehl Crutchfield / WVXU

Representatives from various organizations including The Poor People's Campaign and the Greater Cincinnati Native American Coalition spoke to a diverse crowd of attendees.

Greater Cincinnati Native American Coalition member Jheri Neri was one of the speakers. He says he is concerned about the impact laws can have on the environment, like protections for the Ohio River being rolled back.

"First it's going to affect people of color, their neighborhoods and the drinking water when you think about some place like Flint or North Dakota," he says. According to reporting from The Intercept, Native American tribes in North Dakota are concerned installing oil pipelines could potentially leak and contaminate their rivers and waterways.

Rallygoers hold signs and talk as they wait for speeches to start.
Credit Ambriehl Crutchfield / WVXU

Walnut Hills High School student Yousouf Munir said in his speech that local attention on climate change goes beyond rallies.

Throughout speeches, young people demanded the Green New Deal be implemented, new opportunities be created for people losing jobs in environmentally harmful jobs like coal, a pause on future fossil fuel projects, and that marginalized voices be centered in the conversation.

Munir says young people must stay committed to their goals even when it's not as "sexy" as a rally. He urged the crowd to call their representatives and vote public officials out if their demands aren't met.

A teenager cheers as chants call on young people to vote out public officials that don't support environmentally friendly legislation.
Credit Ambriehl Crutchfield / WVXU

Kenwood resident Elizabeth Perkins walked around the rally with a sign that read, "My annoying teenagers deserve a planet for their annoying teenagers."

Perkins joked that her 17-year-old daughter even created a PowerPoint slideshow detailing why she should be able to leave school for the strike. Perkins says she didn't have the heart to tell her daughter she was in support of her daughter attending.

"I am extremely proud that she would want to care about this," she says.

Perkins' family is starting to do everything they can to lessen their carbon footprint, but she questions how that matters when deregulations continue.