Students across South Florida and the state will be skipping school Friday to join a nationwide youth climate strike.
At least 30 events have been planned from the Keys to Tallahassee as part of hundreds occurring nationwide. Teen activist Greta Thunberg, who arrived in the U.S. by sailboat last week and has been drawing crowds around New York and Washington, began inspiring the strikes after she staged a protest outside the Swedish parliament in August 2018.
Miami Country Day School senior Gabriella Marchesani, who helped organize two events at Miami Beach City Hall, said teens are waking up to the fact that their future is at risk.
“For people who say we’re just a bunch of kids, we’re a bunch of youth who believe in science and we want action,” said Marchesani, 17.
Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber is slated to speak at the Miami Beach event, that begins at 10 a.m. South Florida events are also planned for Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Homestead and Key Largo.
Around the country, some school districts have considered excusing students from class to attend. New York City signed-off on allowing more than a million students out of school.
Marchesani was frustrated that students in South Florida won't be excused to attend events.
“Missing one day, not even a full day of school, to do something that could possibly change the way our lawmakers, politicians, how our government works, they should encourage that,” she said. “They should encourage students to take action.”
In an email, Miami-Dade School district spokeswoman Daisy Gonzalez-Diego said year-round studies include impacts on the environment and that Friday the district is holding climate activities.
She said while the district won’t excuse absences, it supports their right to protest and parents can sign students out.
Organizers expect a larger turnout at this year's strikes because of better outreach and increased exposure. Thunberg's trans Atlantic journey on a sailboat to minimize her trip's carbon footprint also drew widespread coverage.
Marchesani said she hopes to draw more attention to low-income and marginalized people who may bear the brunt of climate change impacts, from increased heat to worsening flooding. A member of the Miccosukee Tribe is also expected to speak in Miami Beach Friday.
"In Miami, there are people with no AC," she said. "We're at ground zero. If Dorian were to hit Miami or Miami Beach, we would be underwater."
A list of locations and times for events can be found at www.strikewithus.org.