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Hundreds of thousands of people swarmed the streets in Australia, India, the U.K. and elsewhere Friday in a stunning kickoff to the global youth-led climate protests demanding immediate action to save the planet.
The total numbers are expected to swell into the millions at events in 150 countries, culminating in a protest at the United Nations headquarters in New York ahead of the U.N. Climate Action Summit on Monday.
Organizers estimated that some 300,000 people showed up to the strikes in Australia, including about 100,000 in Melbourne and 80,000 in Sydney. The pictures and videos of crowds in Australia were stunning, as people — including lots of young people — packed onto streets to demand real climate action.
And, young people being young people, they made clever memes to get their point across. They managed to get incorporate Shawn Mendes, Lizzo and the 2004 Hillary Duff film “Raise Your Voice” into strike signs, an impressive feat.
In the U.K., strikes were just getting started, but folks were already out in droves. And again young people were taking the lead. “The kids are ALL right,” read one poignant sign.
"It's encouraging and empowering seeing all the kids and teens take to the streets and fight for their future," Rodrigo Arteaga, a Ph.D. researcher at Cambridge University, told CNN at a strike in Cambridge. "The kids are giving us a political lesson.”
In Delhi, crowds of students blocked roads in one of the world’s most polluted cities.
“The lungs of an 11-year-old have black spots on them,” Shivam, a law student, told the Guardian. “This is why we have to change things now.”
The strikes were scheduled to continue throughout the rest of the day. Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg — just 16 years old — was set to spearhead the New York strike. She’s fresh off schooling Congress in a hearing this week, where she simply handed lawmakers the 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report as her testimony.
“I am submitting this report as my testimony because I don’t want you to listen to me; I want you to listen to the scientists,” Thunberg wrote in her eight-sentence testimony. “And I want you to unite behind the science. And then I want you to take action.”