After the March: Building a Youth-Led Climate Movement
Photos by Erik McGregor
On Saturday, July 21st, thousands of students, adult allies, and organizations across the globe marched and rallied to demand that our lawmakers act on climate change. Here in NYC, 300 participants marched from Columbus Circle to Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, right by UN Headquarters, to join the call for environmental justice. As marchers, we chanted our support for a carbon tax, urged President Trump to recommit to the Paris Accords, and declared that #thisiszerohour for climate action. In our post-march rally, we heard from students experienced in environmental activism. Halfway through, speakers and rally-goers joined in making the internationally-recognized Climate Sign and, with our signs held high in the air, we told our neighbors what compelled us to take part in the historic youth-led event. Soon enough, our call had captured the media’s attention; NYC’s action was featured in TV and online news outlets including the New Yorker, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, and MetroFocus. Yet our movement extends far beyond July 21st—that’s why we're joining New Yorkers on September 6th in the Rise for Climate, Jobs, and Justice march. As young people, we demand elected officials who will stand up for our future
On July 21st, we accomplished two major goals that will bolster our movement going forward. First, we made clear demands: we called for total divestment of public and private funds from the fossil fuel and big agriculture industries, a just transition to 100% renewable energy by 2040, and a complete stop to the current construction of oil pipelines and fossil fuel infrastructure. We also coupled these national demands with local ones, calling on Governor Cuomo to pass a plastic bag ban and on NY lawmakers to support progressive environmental legislation like the Climate and Community Protection Act. Second, we engaged new members of the climate movement. We welcomed our peers, parents, and coworkers into the fight for climate justice, showing them that every voice can be instrumental in making change.
Our dedication to tackling special interest politics and demanding climate justice extends far beyond July 21st. In the wake of the March, we published a Post-March Action Guide detailing opportunities for march participants to continue contributing to the climate movement through joining Zero Hour NYC, attending climate events, supporting our organizational partners, and using their power as NY constituents. Now, we are working to expand our leadership and volunteer bases to tackle new climate actions this fall.
This September, Zero Hour NYC will partner with major environmental organizations, including People’s Climate Movement and 350.org, in the Rise for Climate, Jobs, and Justice campaign. As we saw at our July 21st March, students recognize the importance of having a just transition to renewable energy. We’re calling not only for a more sustainable future, but also for a more socially just and equitable one. We want an inclusive green economy that invests in the marginalized communities disproportionately suffering the effects of climate change and environmental pollution, as well as that provides new opportunities for the workers who stand to lose employment from the necessary dismantlement of the dirty energy sector.
With NYC March co-organizers Ilana Cohen and Amy Torres preparing for college this fall, we are excited to see the march’s superstar junior coordinator Rachel Lee take over as Head Coordinator of Zero Hour NYC.
Rachel believes that now more than ever, it is imperative to get involved in climate activism—especially for youth. The state of today’s climate and the lack of strong environmental legislation affects us the most. Zero Hour NYC joins students from the NYC area to discuss and put into motion ways to combat the problem of climate change. Our organization is entirely youth-led and grassroots; there is no hidden agenda or profit. Our successes are representative of our generation—of the tremendous capability of youth to effect change, even when the majority cannot vote.
You can sign up to volunteer for Zero Hour NYC using this form. Invite your friends and family to do so as well! You can also follow Zero Hour NYC on social media (Facebook/Instagram: @thisiszerohour.nyc Twitter: @zerohournyc) and learn more about us at zerohournyc.weebly.com.