WASHINGTON (AP) — Students across a warming globe pleaded for their lives, future and planet Friday, demanding tough action on climate change.
From the South Pacific to the edge of the Arctic Circle, angry students in more than 100 countries walked out of classes to protest what they see as the failures by their governments.
Well more than 150,000 students and adults who were mobilized by word of mouth and social media protested in Europe, according to police estimates. But the initial turnout in the United States did not look quite as high.
"Borders, languages and religions do not separate us," eight-year-old Havana Chapman-Edwards, who calls herself the tiny diplomat, told hundreds of protesters at the U.S. Capitol. "Today we are telling the truth and we do not take no for an answer."
Thousands of New York City students protested at locations including Columbus Circle, City Hall, the American Museum of Natural History and a football field at the Bronx High School of Science. Police said 16 protesters were arrested on disorderly conduct charges for blocking traffic at the museum.
The coordinated "school strikes" were inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who began holding solitary demonstrations outside the Swedish parliament last year.
Since then, the weekly protests have snowballed from a handful of cities to hundreds, fueled by dramatic headlines about the impact of climate change during the students' lifetime. Unless emissions of heat-trapping gases start dropping dramatically, scientists estimate that the protesters will be in their 40s and 50s, maybe even 30s, when the world will reach dangerous levels of warming that international agreements are trying to prevent.
Thunberg, who has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, said at a rally in Stockholm that the world faces an "existential crisis, the biggest crisis humanity ever has faced and still it has been ignored for decades."
Alexandria Villasenor, a 13-year-old co-coordinator of the New York City protest that culminated in a die-in at the steps of the American Museum of Natural History, said while she was pleased with the number of demonstrators, a big turnout isn't the point.
"It won't be successful until the world leaders take some action," Villasenor said.
Dana Fisher, a University of Maryland sociology professor who tracks protest movements and environmental activists, said action could possibly be triggered by "the fact that we're seeing children, some of whom are quite small, talking about the Earth they're going to inherit."
Across the globe, protesters urged politicians to act against climate change while highlighting local environmental problems:
— In India's capital of New Delhi, schoolchildren protested inaction on climate change and demanded that authorities tackle rising air pollution levels, which often far exceed World Health Organization limits.
— In Paris, teenagers thronged street