‘I can’t just wallow in terror’: Students rally again against climate change

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Hundreds of students in the Philadelphia area walked out of their classrooms and homes Friday morning to attend another youth-led protest against climate change.

While the crowd wasn't as large as the first climate strike outside City Hall in September, it was equally passionate. And this time, organizers brought along a list of demands.

“We are demanding a ban on fossil fuel infrastructure in the city of Philadelphia,” one young protester shouted.

They also demanded what’s been called the right to breathe legislation — a measure created as a result of the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery fire, in which toxic chemicals were released into the air — as well as an end to the 10-year property tax abatement and a cleanup of asbestos-contaminated schools.

“Toxic chemicals like those released by the PES refinery are a major health risk to Philadelphians, especially in low-income neighborhoods,” said one youth speaker. “All Philadelphians have a right to clean air, and City Council needs to take steps to ensure that we can all breathe.”

For most, if not all, of the student protesters, climate change presents an existential threat. 

“When I'm 28 years old, we will be past the point of no return, according to the scientists,” said Luisa Hanson, a senior at Central High School. “That is terrifying to me. I'm about to go to college. I want to be a lawyer. If I go to grad school, I'll graduate when I'm 25, and then when I'm 28, we've past the point of no return. 

“It's terrifying, which is why I'm here. Because I can't just wallow in my terror. I have to channel it into something hopeful. And this makes me really hopeful.”

Some teens say they're genuinely not sure how much time they have. 

“I’m terrified,” admitted Gabby Warner, a sophomore at Abington Friends School. “I'm scared when I think about, ‘Is this the end, is this our last generation? Am I gonna be able to have a future?’ ”

Unlike the September strike, students were able to avoid penalties from school as long as they had their parents' permission.

This climate strike was one of many across the world, as the United Nations holds its Climate Change Conference in Madrid.