To all who have followed this long and informative journey, I must unfortunately say that this is the end. And to commemorate this, it felt fitting to recount my first climate strike. In that perhaps I can share some more wisdom regarding the move forward.
One day in early December 2019 I overheard a couple juniors at school discuss a climate strike they were planning on attending in Vienna. One of them was going to speak there. I asked them about the organization and they said it was called VA Youth Climate Strike (VAYCS). Climate Strike, like the Greta Thurnberg thing? was the first thought that popped up in my mind. Though the strike was on a school day, I skipped school in order to see a rare glimpse at a strike.
When I went there the day of the strike, on the Vienna town green, the event seemed like a let-down. I arrived early, and walked around the green, seeing some girls write chalk protest messages on the sidewalk. When I saw a chalk message saying “VA Strikes Back”, to tell the truth I found that amusing at best.
Eventually things started picking up, there were some teens, some adults, some families with small children. A couple old women came to set a voter registration stand. Someone put climate protest music on the speakers, and I honestly felt that the event was a letdown. At that point my friends showed up, so at least I didn’t feel alone. There was an indigenous speaker to start, and all I could think about was How many Native Americans are even in Virginia? Different politicians from the state senate, House of Delegates, and Fairfax County came to speak. So far, so good. I met the co-leads for the NoVA chapter of VAYCS, listened to my friend speak, and various other teens who spoke. It was all nice, but the event that slightly decreased my apathetic outlook was when someone shouted from a distance “Don’t believe the lies!”. How could someone think this wasn’t real? Over hearing these speeches the sense of anxiety of the climate impacts that were either coming in the future, I realized I had climate anxiety that I had never consciously thought about beforehand. When the strike ended, most of the people went to march on Maple Avenue with a sign demanding climate justice. At that point I left because I was uncomfortable being so upfront and provocative (at least thats what I thought about it) and drove home.
As of writing this final post, it is about six months since that event occurred. I do not know how it happened, but one day I woke up and realized that “Oh my God, these people I know at VA Climate Strike have become my friends.” In the course of those six months I have more emboldened to speak out, contrary to who I was in December 2019 when I thought marching in the streets was radical. I have made activism such a part of my life, that sometimes doing this project about activism was frustrating because I wanted to spend more time for my activist work. As people gain consciousness about the problems in the USA, especially watching these Black Lives Matter protests, maybe this story can help others learn about the road from apathy to action.