Illustration by Liene Magdalēna

The Global Climate Strike: Stories from Across the GNU

Students all over the globe show solidarity in activism for Global Warming.

Sept. 2019 has been a historic month for climate activism. The Global Climate Strikes, inspired by young Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, was the largest mass protest for action on climate change in history. Over 2,500 advocacy events were scheduled in more than 163 countries. The climate organization estimates that more than 4 million people participated worldwide. NYU Abu Dhabi students and alumni from across the globe, took part in many of these events.
New York was at the epicenter of the movement, as it simultaneously hosted world leaders and climate activists for the United Nations Climate Action Summit. An estimated 250,000 people took part in a march through Lower Manhattan on the eve of the global summit. Shebi Niazi, class of 2021, was one of many NYUAD students studying away in New York who participated in the strike. She wrote to us saying: “There were people of all ages, toddlers and gray heads and everyone in between ... The three main demands were: 100% clean energy, keeping fossil fuels in the ground and helping climate refugees. But no matter what each of us advocated for, a central belief brought us all together. The belief that something needs to change. We need to change.”
In Spain, students at NYU Madrid also joined a local rally. Killian Dumont, class of 2021, recounts, “We marched through the streets chanting ‘no hay planeta B’ and ‘don’t just watch us, join us’ until we got to a big plaza. It was a really cool experience to be part of such a passionate group of students and to know that we were a small piece of a global movement all happening at the same time.”
Hani Hasani, class of 2019, currently studying in the Netherlands, participated in a strike for the first time. “When I saw that there was a strike in the Hague I immediately wanted to go and participate.” He says many of his peers skipped classes to join, and crowds blocked the city center for two straight hours.
Australia had one of the highest turnout rates in the world, with over 330,000 people taking part. Kate Melville-Rea, class of 2018, has been working for an environmental NGO near the Great Barrier Reef since graduating. “To see the rise in concern for climate justice has just been incredible. One year ago we would have struggled to get 50 people to come to a climate rally, yet last week we had 1,500 people march under the sun, just in Cairns.” Meanwhile, Melbourne attracted crowds reaching 100,000. James Carrington Gardner, class of 2017, reports back, “It was huge!”
In New Zealand, Grace Huang, class of 2018, brought some humor to Wellington’s streets with a handmade sign that read: Keep the Earth clean, it’s not Uranus!
From France, Miren Aguirre Salazar, class of 2019, notes that participating in the events made her more conscious of the challenges ahead with adapting to climate induced disasters.
Finally, at our campus in Abu Dhabi, students took a more unconventional approach to showing solidarity with the movement. Liene Pekuse, class of 2020, was among a group of students who built a monster made from plastic water bottles as a temporary installation in recognition of the environmental crisis. “Throughout the week that the monster was displayed, what really mattered to us was receiving messages from our peers saying that they have either avoided take away cups and dined in, or gotten their own reusable bottle,” said Pekuse. The art demonstration was meant to show how everyone’s choices accumulate and eventually reach a tipping point.
The Global Climate Strike comes at a critical moment in Climate Politics. The next round of nationally set commitments mandated under the Paris Agreement are due to be submitted to the United Nations by 2020. Climate advocates and supporters around the world are calling in unison for ambitious commitments.
Hannah Melville Rea is a contributing writer. Email her at
gazelle logo