Teen girls strike for global action on climate change

  • Linda Givetash

Part II in a feature about the teens leading the Fridays For Future climate change movement.

LAUSANNE, Switzerland — It was the floodwaters brushing her jawline that convinced Theresa Sebastian it was time to get serious about climate change.

The teen from Ireland was in Kerala, India, for a family wedding last summer when the region experienced 40 percent higher-than-average rainfall. More than 480 people died in the torrential rains that swept away cars and destroyed more than 20,000 homes.

“My whole entire life could have ended there,” Sebastian, 15, said, maintaining eye contact through her black-rimmed glasses while pointedly recounting the terrifying experience.“I knew about global warming, but I didn’t think it would affect me so soon.”

While scientists have not definitively linked the Kerala flood to climate change, a recent study cautioned that the disaster was a sign of things to come as global warming reaches the 2.7-degree Fahrenheit threshold.

Sebastian returned to Cork, Ireland, determined to force world leaders to prevent global ecological catastrophe by joining the female-led Fridays for Future school strikes — a movement led largely by teenage girls.

Fridays for Future has eclipsed the quiet, solitary protests started by its founder, 16-year-old Swede Greta Thunberg, in August 2018. Now upward of 2 million supporters from The Hague to Kampala, Uganda, regularly skip class on Friday and take to the streets to protest government inaction on climate change.

Sebastian was among some 450 teen strikers from 38 countries who gathered in Lausanne on the banks of Lake Geneva last month to figure out how to get the world to act now.

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