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Can These Kids Save the Planet?

Young people around the world say adults aren’t doing enough to stop global warming. Can they force leaders to take action?

    Last December, Alexandria Villaseñor stopped going to school on Fridays. Instead, she grabbed a cardboard sign, took the subway across New York City, and sat on a bench. Some Fridays it poured rain. She huddled under an umbrella. One Friday the temperature was 15 degrees. She zipped herself into a sleeping bag.

    Alexandria, now 14, chose her bench for a reason. The United Nations building was about 100 feet away. That’s where leaders from around the world gather to try to solve shared problems.

    Alexandria had a message for them all. The planet is warming. The future of her generation is in danger. “Young people have to force adults to act,” she says. “By the time we’re in power, it will be too late.”

    Alexandria Villaseñor is 14 years old. She lives in New York City. Last December, she stopped going to school on Fridays. Instead, she took a subway across town. She sat on a bench and held a sign.

Why did Alexandria choose that bench? It was near the United Nations building. That’s where leaders from around the world gather. They try to solve problems.

Alexandria had a message for the leaders. The planet is warming. Her generation could face many problems in the future. “Young people have to force adults to act,” she says. “By the time we’re in power, it will be too late.”

    Last December, Alexandria Villaseñor stopped going to school on Fridays. Instead, she grabbed a cardboard sign, rode the subway across New York City, and sat on a bench. When it rained, she huddled under an umbrella. When the temperature dipped to 15 degrees, she zipped herself into a sleeping bag.

    Alexandria, now 14, sat on that particular bench for a reason. The United Nations building—where leaders from around the world gather to try to solve shared problems—was about 100 feet away.

    Alexandria had a message for the leaders: The planet is warming, and the future of her generation is in danger. “Young people have to force adults to act,” she explains. “By the time we’re in power, it will be too late.”

A Warming Planet

    A 15-year-old Swedish girl named Greta Thunberg inspired Alexandria. Thunberg started her own school strike in August 2018. The protests have spread from there. 

    The protesters are trying to bring attention to a problem called climate change. Scientists have shown that humans are causing Earth’s climate to warm. Cars, power plants, and factories are all part of the problem. They use fossil fuels such as coal or oil for energy. 

    When fossil fuels burn, they produce greenhouse gases. These gases collect in Earth’s atmosphere—the layer of air that surrounds Earth. They trap the sun’s rays near the surface of the planet. Little by little, this trapped heat is causing temperatures to rise. 

    Climate change is already affecting  our world. Ice near the North and South poles is melting. The melting ice causes sea levels to rise. Entire islands are slowly disappearing under water. Hotter weather is also changing the way vegetables and other plants grow. And those changes may cause food shortages in the future.

    Alexandria was inspired by a girl named Greta Thunberg. Greta is a 15-year-old Swedish girl. She did her own school strike. That was in August 2018. After that, there were more protests.

    The protesters worry about climate change. Scientists know what is causing Earth’s climate to warm. It is human behavior. Cars are part of the problem. So are power plants and factories. They use fossil fuels for energy. Coal and oil are two kinds of fossil fuels.

    Burning fossil fuels produces greenhouse gases. These gases collect in Earth’s atmosphere. That’s the layer of air that surrounds Earth. The gases trap heat from the sun. This heat causes temperatures to rise.

    Climate change is already causing problems. Ice near the North and South poles is melting. As a result, sea levels are rising. Islands are disappearing under water. Hotter weather is also an issue. Vegetables are growing differently. Other plants are affected too. These changes may cause food shortages.

    A 15-year-old Swedish girl named Greta Thunberg had inspired Alexandria. Thunberg started her own school strike in August 2018, and the protests have spread from there. 

    The protesters want to bring attention to a problem called climate change. Scientists have shown that Earth’s climate is warming because of human activity. Cars, power plants, and factories all contribute to the problem. They use fossil fuels such as coal or oil for energy. 

    When fossil fuels burn, they produce greenhouse gases, which collect in Earth’s atmosphere—the layer of air that surrounds Earth. The gases trap the sun’s rays near the surface of the planet. This trapped heat gradually causes temperatures to rise. 

    The world has already seen the effects of climate change. Polar ice is melting, causing sea levels to rise. Entire islands are now slowly disappearing under water. Hotter weather is also affecting the way vegetables and other plants grow, which may cause food shortages in the future.

Striking for Change

    Last November, Alexandria saw the effects of climate change up close. Her family took a trip to California. While she was there, wildfires swept through the state. 

    Alexandria has a medical condition called asthma. It sometimes makes breathing difficult for her. She had to fly back to New York early when smoke from the fires filled the air. “I was mad,” she says. “I realized the fires were linked to climate change.”

    Back at home, Alexandria did some research. She discovered that a warmer climate can cause dry weather. Dry wood creates fuel for fires. For Alexandria, that made climate change feel real. About a month later, she started her school strike.

    Last November, Alexandria saw the effects of climate change up close. She went to California. Wildfires swept through the state.

Alexandria has asthma. It’s a medical condition. It can make breathing difficult. Smoke from the fires filled the air. Alexandria had to fly back to New York early. “I was mad,” she says. 

Alexandria did some research. She read that a warmer climate can dry out wood. Dry wood burns easily. Climate change felt real to Alexandria. So she started her school strike.

    Last November, Alexandria experienced the effects of climate change when her family took a trip to California. While she was there, wildfires burned through the state. 

    Alexandria has a medical condition called asthma, which sometimes makes breathing difficult for her. She had to fly back to New York early when smoke from the fires filled the air. “I was mad,” she says. “I realized the fires were linked to climate change.”

    Back at home, Alexandria researched climate change and discovered that a warmer climate can cause dry weather. Dry wood can become fuel for fires. For Alexandria, climate change was suddenly a very real problem. About a month later, she started her school strike.

Call to Action

    Alexandria also decided one person was not enough. She started tweeting about climate change. She reached out to protesters around the world. And she joined with two other American teens, Haven Coleman and Isra Hirsi. Together, they got kids in nearly every state involved. 

    On March 15, more than a million kids around the world protested. Thousands of American students joined them. They left school to march in the streets. The protesters want world leaders to act now. They’re asking governments to cut the use of fossil fuels in half by 2030.

    Alexandria is happy that so many young people are getting involved. But she’s not satisfied with the school strike. “It wasn’t a success, because no laws were changed,” she says.

    Some countries are trying to make changes. France wants to ban the use of coal after 2022. But around the world, fossil fuel use is still rising.

    Until it stops, the climate protesters will keep pushing. “Climate change will affect my generation the most,” says Alexandria. “So we’re going to force leaders to take action.” 

    Alexandria knew she needed people to join her. She started tweeting about climate change. She met two other American teens. Their names are Haven Coleman and Isra Hirsi. They reached out to kids around the country.

On March 15, more than a million kids around the world protested. Thousands of American students joined them. They left school. They marched in the streets. They want world leaders to act now. They want governments to cut the use of fossil fuels in half by 2030.

Alexandria is happy that many young people went on strike. But she wants more. “It wasn’t a success, because no laws were changed,” she says.

Some countries are trying to change. France wants to ban the use of coal after 2022. But around the world, fossil fuel use is still rising.

So the climate protesters will keep pushing. “Climate change will affect my generation the most,” says Alexandria. “We’re going to force leaders to take action.”

    Alexandria realized that her actions alone were not enough, so she started tweeting about climate change. She reached out to protesters around the world, and she coordinated with two other American teens, Haven Coleman and Isra Hirsi. Together, they inspired kids in nearly every state to become involved. 

    On March 15, more than a million kids around the world protested, including thousands of American students. They left school to march in the streets and demand that world leaders act now. They hope that governments will cut the use of fossil fuels in half by 2030.

    Alexandria is thrilled that so many young people care about climate change, but she’s not satisfied with the school strike. “It wasn’t a success, because no laws were changed,” she says.

    Some countries are trying to make changes. France wants to ban the use of coal after 2022. But even so, fossil fuel use is still increasing around the world. 

    Until it stops, the climate protesters will keep drawing attention to the problem. “Climate change will affect my generation the most,” says Alexandria. “We’re going to force leaders to take action.”

infographic Art by Brown Bird Design

Editor’s Note: In the print version of this article, Greta Thunberg was identified as German. In reality, she is Swedish. This error has been corrected in all online versions of the article. We apologize for any confusion this may cause.

Editor’s Note: In the print version of this article, Greta Thunberg was identified as German. In reality, she is Swedish. This error has been corrected in all online versions of the article. We apologize for any confusion this may cause.

Editor’s Note: In the print version of this article, Greta Thunberg was identified as German. In reality, she is Swedish. This error has been corrected in all online versions of the article. We apologize for any confusion this may cause.

ACTIVITY: 
5 Questions About
Climate Change

What to do: Answer the questions below. Use full sentences.

What to do: Answer the questions below. Use full sentences.

What to do: Answer the questions below. Use full sentences.

What are greenhouse gases?

What are greenhouse gases?

What are greenhouse gases?

How is climate change affecting Earth?

How is climate change affecting Earth?

How is climate change affecting Earth?

Who inspired Alexandria’s school strike? 

Who inspired Alexandria’s school strike? 

Who inspired Alexandria’s school strike? 

Where does Alexandria sit each Friday?

Where does Alexandria sit each Friday?

Where does Alexandria sit each Friday?

Why did young people around the world protest on March 15? 

Why did young people around the world protest on March 15? 

Why did young people around the world protest on March 15? 

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