Youth Standing Up to Climate Change: Reflections from the Strikes

BY ISN STAFF | October 8, 2019

On Wednesday, October 2, 2019, the Ignatian Solidarity Network hosted a live event on Facebook, following up with students at three Ignatian network schools who participated in events surrounding the September 20 Global Climate Strike. During the event, ISN executive director Chris Kerr spoke with students at St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland, OH, a student and the president of Nativity Preparatory School of Boston, and a student from Notre Dame School of Manhattan in New York City. 

nativity boston climate strike

Nativity Preparatory School Boston’s Climate Strike.

Pope Francis’s 2015 encyclical on care for our common home, Laudato Si’, was a call to Catholics to more deeply engage and take direct action on environmental justice issues affecting creation and those most vulnerable to climate change. 

More recently, the Jesuits’ new Universal Apostolic Preferences include a call to collaborate with “Gospel-depth” for the protection and renewal of God’s creation and to accompany young people in the creation of a hope-filled future. 

The Global Climate Strikes, inspired by Greta Thunberg’s weekly climate protests outside of the Swedish parliament, mobilized the world, including the Ignatian family to further live out these two Preferences as we saw young people take hopeful action for God’s creation. 

“As a Jesuit school, it is important that we advocate for all types of social justice,” shared Robby Klanac, a senior at St. Ignatius High School. “Climate justice falls under that.” He went on to speak about the reality in Cleveland, and globally, that under-resourced communities are disproportionately affected by pollution and issues associated with climate change. 

climate strike cleveland

St. Ignatius High School students participated in Climate Strike events with other Cleveland-area Catholic high school students.

Steve Zucca, also a senior, talked about the need for collective action and the importance of small lifestyle change to combat the climate crisis. “It’s not just the leaders who have to work towards [addressing] climate change,” he shared. “It’s all of us, and by sacrificing something we normally take for granted, we, ourselves can contribute to solving this problem.”

Senior Michael Chopra spoke about the school’s ongoing work to reduce its carbon footprint through a robust program to minimize waste. The school’s composting program “eliminates food waste from our waste stream going in the landfills,” he explained. “Food waste is one of the biggest contributors of methane in terms of emissions into the atmosphere.”

Brian Maher, president of Nativity Preparatory School of Boston, explained that his desire to engage in the Global Climate Strike was initiated through the Jesuit’s Universal Apostolic Preferences. “We’re dealing with a low-income population, we’re dealing with young people, and we’re dealing with the effects of climate change,” he said. “But what was particularly appealing was trying to introduce young people to a hope filled future.”

Dellon Jiles, a Nativity Boston eighth-grader, explained that “when our future comes, we want the world to be better than it is today. We are going to have to stand up and address how climate change can affect the world if we don’t address it as soon as possible.”

climate strike nyc

Notre Dame School of Manhattan students joined with Xavier High School students to attend the New York City Climate Strike.

Brigid McCabe, a student at Notre Dame School of Manhattan, an ISN member institution, framed her school’s involvement in the Global Climate Strike around the “Solidarity Throughout All Notre Dame” (STAND) Club that she founded with three peers after attending ISN’s 2019 east coast Arrupe Leaders Summit, which supports a variety of student efforts to address justice issues. “All justice issues are essentially connected in a chain and interconnected in so many different ways,” she said. “Environmental justice for example…is largely connected to poverty and is going to hit developing countries harder than these first world countries.”

Brenna Davis, ISN’s director of environmental initiatives, wrapped up the conversation by sharing concrete ways that individuals and institutions can get involved in climate justice work, including through ISN’s Ignatian Carbon Challenge and through legislative advocacy, particularly around carbon emissions

“At this historic moment, prophetic action is needed on the climate, and these inspirational young leaders in the Ignatian world are the moral voice of our tradition, calling on all of us to authentically live our faith by taking action,” said Davis after the event.

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