Greta Thunberg joins local student for youth-led climate strike in Charlotte

Published: Nov. 8, 2019 at 5:30 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old climate and environmental activist, joined a youth-led climate strike in Charlotte Friday.

Hundreds of people joined as the strike got underway at noon outside the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center.

Thunberg, who has nearly 3 million followers on Twitter, has gotten attention for mobilizing a global youth movement against climate change and Friday she will stand beside 14-year-old Mary Ellis Stevens.

Stevens spends Fridays skipping class at Myers Park High School, where she is a freshman, to raise awareness at the Charlotte Government Center. She sits with signs and educates others. For weeks she sat alone, and now other youth activists join her.

She was inspired by the famous climate strikes by Greta Thunberg.

“It all comes down to atmospheric carbon dioxide and the emissions from fossil fuels and they’re causing disastrous effects,” Stevens said.

Mary Ellis Stevens
Mary Ellis Stevens(Caroline Hicks)

On Wednesday, Greta messaged her on Twitter.

"She asked ‘Are you planning on striking this Friday?’ ‘I said Yeah definitely- if you’re in the area I’d love for you to join me.’ 'And she was like yeah that’d be great let’s do it!” she said.

Now she's planning for her biggest climate strike yet.

She skipped school on Thursday, with the permission of her assistant principal to spend the day securing permits, a stage, and audio equipment. Other activists and her parents helped her.

“She has given up a lot for her work on climate justice," her mother Natalie Stevens said. "What a boost this will do.”

It could also be a boost for change in the Queen City, according to city council member Dimple Ajmera.

“This is the kind of event that you see once in decades,” Adjmera said.

Adjmera calls Stevens, a local Greta.

“When we are making decisions for our younger generations, who is more important than them to be at the table?” Adjmera said.

Stevens hopes the strike is an awakening.

“I’m hoping that the officials but more so the people see that this is so crucially important,” Stevens said.

The climate strike will be at the government center from 12pm to 2pm on Friday. Greta’s strikes usually attract thousands of people, which is what they’re preparing for.

Mary Ellis Stevens is also being honored with a Blue Sky Award Thursday night, given by Clean Air Carolina to recognize individuals working for solutions for cleaner air and climate change.

On Sept. 20, hundreds of Charlotte-area youth protested what they call government inaction on climate change. According to the Charlotte Observer, a Charlotte police officer present at the Government Center on Sept. 20 estimated about 250 people were there. Student organizers said about 400 people attended.

The Observer said Stevens was helped by 13-year-old Lucia Paulsen and 14-year-old Kate Harrison in organizing the Sept. 20 rally. They help lead the statewide, student-led N.C. Climate Strike movement, too.

WBTV reached out to Charlotte-Meckleburg Schools (CMS) in regards to the students who choose to skip school for the climate strike Friday. A media relations specialist from the school system responded Thursday afternoon.

“The CMS absentee policy would be in place as outlined in the student handbook for any student absences. We would encourage parents to review the guidelines for absences,” the statement read.

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