Millions of people around the world participated in the Nov. 29 and the Dec. 6 climate strikes to demand action from political leaders on this most crucial issue of our time. The November date was a global action, while Dec. 6 focused on the U.S. Participants targeted local, state and national leaders, in some cases sitting in at their offices until they were removed by security. As the U.N. Climate Conference got underway in Madrid, Spain, climate activists held more than 260 strike events in the U.S. and took over politicians’ offices in 20 states.
The Connecticut chapter of the Sunrise Movement organized the rally outside the Capitol in Hartford that drew hundreds of people, a large majority of them teens and pre-teens. One of the speakers – and co-lead organizer of the event – was Sena Wazer, a petite 15-year-old college student who has often been compared to Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg.
This was the fourth climate strike this year in Hartford, following events in March, May and September, in which Wazer has spoken at every one. At the Dec. 6 event she was angrier than in the past, calling out Connecticut’s Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont and other state politicians’ inadequate response to climate change. Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus attended the rally, and brings us Wazer’s speech in its entirety.
SENA WAZER: Good afternoon. My name is Sena Wazer, and I am a 15-year-old climate activist and a student at UConn (University of Connecticut). I was one of the main organizers for this event, and right now I want to tell you why I helped plan a climate strike on the Friday before my finals start.
On Sept. 20, 1,500 people gathered on these steps to ask for immediate and drastic climate action. At the end of the strike we went inside and delivered a resolution to the governor’s office, outlining steps we need to take to combat climate change and requesting a meeting with the governor.
We were told to contact the governor’s scheduler. We reached out to the governor again and again. And yet we have gotten no response (Boos from crowd). And it is time to show the governor that youth voices can no longer be ignored (cheers). What are we going to do about this? Well, first of all we are going to keep coming back. We are not leaving until we see climate action at the scale of the crisis we are facing.
And second, we are not only going to demand a meeting with him; but to also ask for a youth seat on the Governor’s Council for Climate Change, or the GC3 Council (cheers). And the reason we are demanding a youth seat on the GC3 Council is because over the past few months, the governor’s actions continue to be an inadequate response to the crisis we face. He’s not protecting our future in the way that it needs to be protected. And youth have clarity to see how far adults have strayed from sensible policies, which is why we need a seat at the table (cheers).
And we are also going to work with legislators because this year we will mobilize youth from all over Connecticut to go to the Capitol and pressure our legislators for climate action. Specifically, we will be asking for three things:
- No new fossil fuel expansion. We cannot keep building natural gas power plants when we need to be moving away from fossil fuels.
- Expanded energy efficiency and renewable energy. This is the future. And
- Ensure climate education for all public school children, because every child deserves to know what is happening to our future.
We do have some political leaders who stand up for us, such as the ones behind me here today. But right now, I have a message for the political leaders who congratulate us for being brave and speaking up, but then continue to sit by and do nothing. I’m speaking to the political leaders who either do nothing or take such small actions that it accomplishes nothing. And I’m speaking to the political leaders who continue to deny that climate change is even a thing. And I’m asking them, what more do you need to see before you understand that climate change is urgent? How many more people have to die, how many more communities have to be destroyed, how many more childhoods have to be wrecked? What don’t you understand? We present the science to you again and again, and yet nothing changes. We explain the urgency; we tell you our personal stories, and yet nothing changes.
And that leads me to only one conclusion: You are cowards! You are scared of the changes we say are necessary. You throw away your children’s future today so you can make a little more money. I spend every day panicking about climate change, doing whatever I can to help combat it, yet in your position of power you continue to sit by and do nothing. But we’re not waiting any longer. We’re not going to let you sit by without repercussions.
Because now we call, Stand Up or Step Aside! We will not accept empty promises or blatant lies. We call Stand Up or Step Aside! We will not accept meaningless actions or denial, because we call Stand Up or Step Aside! We will not take anything but action at the scale of the crisis we are facing. We call Stand Up or Step Aside! Thank you.
CHANT: Hey, Gov. Ned, fossil fuels are dead! (repeat)
For more information visit Sunrise Movement at sunrisemovement.org.