Why I Walked Out of School to Speak Up on Climate Change

By Olivia Schroeder, Junior at Lakeside High School

Olivia Schroeder, right, with other participants of the March 15 Seattle Youth Climate Strike. “My participation in the climate strike and my volunteering has shown me that I can make a difference.”

In mid-March, I participated in the Seattle Youth Climate Strike. On this day, students around the world skipped school and raised their voices to increase awareness of and demand action on climate change. In Seattle, more than 2,500 people participated. Students and leaders from government and environmental organizations stepped onto the stage to motivate, educate and inspire future changemakers.

I had the privilege of being one of the event’s speakers, and I used my time to talk about how human activity is devastating our oceans. I spoke about greenhouse gasses, sea ice melting and coral-reef bleaching and acidification. I stressed the importance of engaging with both local and federal governments to create legislative change. Most of all, I highlighted that youth are driving change.

I chose to speak at the Seattle Youth Climate Strike because I am very passionate about climate change. It is important for me to speak about climate change because it causes great harm to our oceans. Just a few of the current threats facing our oceans include ocean warming, bycatch, food chain disruption, pollution, habitat destruction and ocean acidification. My love for the ocean and my work to fight against these threats pushes me to stand up and speak.

One of my inspirations for my personal activism is Greta Thunberg. Greta, a 16-year-old Swedish student, who has gained worldwide attention for initiating the School Strike for Climate movement and has received numerous accolades, including multiple nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize. Her actions have been recognized across the globe and resulted in the largest School Strike for Climate ever on March 15. It involved 1.4 million students and included 2,052 events in 123 countries on all continents, including Antarctica. Her actions have made it clear to the world that a movement to fight climate change and secure a healthier planet begins with youth.

The recent movement of youth voices rising on issues such as abortion, health-care access, gun violence and climate change is being noticed around the world. Young people are speaking with urgency about critical issues now, refusing to be silenced. We cannot wait to speak.

The Youth Climate Strike in London on March 15. Photo by Garry Knight, used via CC0 1.0

Humans need to pull a lot of carbon out of the atmosphere and a lot of plastic out the oceans. If we don’t start to clean up our act, quite literally, our inability to act beyond what is efficient will come back to haunt us. My participation in the climate strike and my volunteering has shown me that I can make a difference. After testifying in support of a plastic bag ban in front of a House of Representatives committee, I received letters in the mail thanking me for speaking up on behalf of the planet. It made me proud and motivated to continue fighting on behalf of our oceans, the planet, and their future inhabitants.

Olivia Schroeder is a junior at Lakeside High School and the daughter of The Nature Conservancy in Washington’s director of conservation, James Schroeder.

What TNC is Doing on Climate Change