They came by the hundreds, shouting chants with fists held in the air.
Children, teens and adults gathered outside the state Capitol building at 11:30 a.m. Friday to participate in the Global Climate Strike — what organizers said was the largest international protest against climate change to date.
A lunchtime crowd estimated at between 500 and 1,000 people participated in Santa Fe, one of about 2,500 communities worldwide to join the effort.
Unlike previous widespread climate demonstrations this year — the inaugural Youth Climate Strike in March and another international youth protest in May — this event aimed to get people of all ages involved. For older generations to join the youth-led movement should not only be an option, but an obligation, teen activists said during Friday’s Climate Strike.
“They left us with this terrible, terrible situation,” said Ellis Sawyer, a sophomore at St. John’s College. “It’s up to youth to make a change.”
“Our time is up, and what the young people are doing all over the world is what we all should be doing,” said Nancy Sutor, a participant who held a sign reading, “I’m with the kids.”
“They’re the ones realizing playing by the rules doesn’t work. We need new rules,” she said.
Plus, Sutor noted, “It’s a beautiful day for a revolution.”
Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old from Sweden, is largely credited with inspiring the youth movement. Thunberg, who has skipped school to protest climate change every Friday since August 2018, emboldened youth from more than 120 countries to participate in the March 15 Youth Climate Strike, as well as the second large-scale event in May in 130 countries.
National news outlets reported that Friday’s march was the biggest yet — with more than 150 countries participating.
The rallies came just a day ahead of Saturday’s first-ever United Nations Youth Climate Summit and three days before the U.N.’s Climate Action Summit in New York. Following a report released earlier this year, which predicted the world has 11 years to address climate change before it becomes irreversible, organizers said these meetings will be critical in determining how to fight rising temperatures and ensure the planet is habitable come 2030.
It’s not just policymakers and global leaders who can make a difference, said kids and teens at the march.
“We need the entire community to get involved,” said 11-year-old Audrey Richardson.
One of the slower-moving couples was Jim and Coreen Plewa. Despite having severe scoliosis, Coreen Plewa said she couldn’t miss the march.
“This is really painful,” she admitted, slumped over and leaning on her cane, “but what we’re doing to the planet is much more painful.”
Also joining the movement was a group of staff from the state’s largest electric utility, Public Service Company of New Mexico.
“We don’t want to be across the table from each other on this [issue]. … We want to be part of the solution,” said PNM spokesman Ray Sandoval. “We understand what’s going on, and we don’t have all the answers. … If we come together, we can actually accomplish something.”
Younger generations, he said, likely will be the ones to “come up with solutions we never thought about before.”
During the Santa Fe strike, crowds marched around downtown and to the Permian Basin Petroleum Association office on Old Santa Fe Trail, as cars honked in support and onlookers cheered. Once outside the facility, a drum sounded and the crowd chanted: “We’re gonna strike because our people are dying. We’re gonna strike because the water is rising.”
Heading back to the Capitol, the crowd chanted other phrases as well: “Sustain what remains”; “Stop lying, the planet is dying”; and “Planet over profit.”
People of every age clung to signs with such slogans as “Save the bees” and “Like the sea, we are rising.” There were also posters protesting a firm’s plan to mine a site near Terrero and hand-painted bubble letters encouraging folks to go vegan.
Back at the Capitol, chalk drawings of Earth and prompts like “The climate is changing, why aren’t we?” lined the sidewalks.
For participants — from single-digit-aged children to seniors — the event was one for the history books.
“When I grow up, I can say, ‘I was a part of this. Look at what we’ve done,’ ” said 10-year-old Vicente Roybal.
Peter Mathews, a St. John’s student, agreed. “I want to be able to look my grandkids in the eye and be able to say, ‘I at least tried to do something,’ ” he said.