Prove your humanity

Julie Grant contributed to this report.

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Pittsburgh area high school and college students and others joined activists worldwide calling for climate justice and an end to fossil fuels.

Nearly 150 protestors gathered at Schenley Plaza in Oakland Friday and marched downtown to the City-County Building, stopping traffic and chanting slogans like “No coal, no oil. Keep your garbage in the soil” along the way.

Ilyas Kahn, a senior at Winchester Thurston High School in Pittsburgh, and an organizer of the Strike for Climate Justice said that the region needs to end its dependence on fracking and petrochemicals.

“We are a fossil fuel county, we have fracking, we have petrochemicals,” he said. “Our rivers are polluted. Our land [and] our soil are polluted by these things, so Pittsburgh and Allegheny County need to step up to dismantle this infrastructure.” 

The event was organized by the Sunrise Movement Pittsburgh and other local groups. Climate strikes were held at more than 1,400 other locations around the world, organized by Fridays for Future.

It comes just over a month after the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its most dire assessment of the impacts of climate change. According to its authors, nearly 200 climate scientists, there is still time to avoid catastrophic warming, but only if countries around the world stop burning fossil fuels as quickly as possible.  

Youth are Worried Worldwide About Climate Change

Climate change is causing a majority of young people across the world to be concerned about the future of the planet, according to a new survey of 10,000 youth ages 16 to 25 from 10 countries. Nearly 60% said they felt ‘very worried’ or ‘extremely worried’. 

Julia Giannotti, an international student from France, counts herself among them. She said she joined Friday’s climate strike “to show that we are here, all the young people, everyone is concerned.” 

Juliana Hunt, 19, who held a sign that read “Stop Fracking,” said, with extreme weather and wildfires, she’s worried that climate change is only getting worse. 

“It’s right down the road,” Hunt said, a sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh and a major in urban and environmental studies. “We should do everything we can to raise awareness of climate change and help it to stop happening. And I think protesting like this peacefully is a good way to do that, just to raise awareness that we are not okay with it, we want it to stop.”

Calls for Climate Justice

Protestors also see climate change as entwined with racial and social justice.

“Wherever there is poverty, there is environmental harm. Wherever there is Black and brownness, there is environmental harm disproportionally” said Kahn. “It is high time Pittsburgh cast aside its segregated history and start working toward a joint climate justice approach, a just transition, to make sure all communities are cared for.”

Kahn sees himself as standing in for people of color who can’t be out there marching, because of work or school. “I’m out here representing people who are like me who are less fortunate than I am, who deserve a voice,” he said. “This event is for them.”