This high school sophomore from Minnesota 'jumped on the bandwagon' to save the planet

Apr 3, 2019

This past March 15, an estimated 1 million schoolchildren around the world went on strike for the climate.

They were inspired by Greta Thunberg, who began striking outside the Swedish parliament during school hours in August 2018 when she was 15 years old. Thunberg was angry that Sweden would not meet its targets under the Paris climate agreement. Until the Swedish election on Sept. 9, she sat with a simple, handmade sign proclaiming she was on a “school strike for the climate.”

"...[T]here’s really no point in studying for a future and a job that might not even be there because of what could happen [due to climate change].”

Anna Grace Hottinger, high school sophomore, Shoreview, Minnesota 

Every Friday following the elections, Thunberg has kept the strike going and inspired students around the globe to join her. Their common demand is simple: Take action now while there is still time to avert the worst possible effects of climate disruption.

The majority of the million or so students around the world who went on strike for the climate on March 15 appear to be young women. In the US, one of the student leaders is Anna Grace Hottinger, a high school sophomore from Shoreview, Minnesota. Hottinger helped organize the March 15 school strike and has continued the Fridays for Future campaign, despite the impact it has had on her grades and social life.

Related: How European kids are schooling politicians on climate change

“Striking is more important than education if you might not have a reason to have that education in the future,” Hottinger said. “I personally feel like I may not be able to see [the impacts of climate change] with my own eyes in the future because I am privileged enough to be able to move away of these situations. But it soon won't be something that we can shift out of, which is a very scary thing, because no matter what, we’ll all be stuck with this issue.”

Hottinger’s passion for economics helped spark her interest in climate change because she realized “the economy would be kind of screwed up” by the effects of a warming planet.

A few weeks later, her sister was evacuated from the recent California wildfires. “I decided that that's when I needed to do something because this is an effect of climate change,” she said.

Hottinger became involved with a climate advocacy group called Minnesota Can't Wait. When she found out about the upcoming global strike inspired by Thunberg, she “just kind of jumped on the bandwagon. It was an easy way in, and now we're doing great things.”

Related: The 'Green New Deal' started with six college grads. Now, they're recruiting an army of young people.

Hottinger hopes the school strikes will send the message that addressing climate change is an urgent matter. She hopes that causing social disruption by leaving school in large numbers, like 2018's March For Our Lives, will make it clear to adults that this is an issue youth care greatly about.

Hottinger accepts the risks involved in not going to school every Friday, although she has yet to receive any punishment for her choice.

“[Missing school is] worth it because this is a future that I'm fighting for and helping lead, not just for myself, but for so many other people. It's not just about me. But also, there’s really no point in studying for a future and a job that might not even be there because of what could happen [due to climate change].”

Anna Grace Hottinger, high school sophomore, Shoreview, Minnesota 

“I do miss school a lot for this type of stuff and it does tend to backfire on all of my academic things, such as my grades and my school attendance,” she said. “It’s worth it because this is a future that I'm fighting for and helping lead, not just for myself, but for so many other people. It's not just about me. But also, there’s really no point in studying for a future and a job that might not even be there because of what could happen [due to climate change].”

Hottinger understands that one event, like the March 15 strike, will not create the change she seeks. What will make a change, she says, is going to a local place every Friday and striking and by making their actions heard and seen.

“...That is what accomplishment will look like. But it'll only look like that if we keep persisting, keep showing up and keep making our voices heard.”

Anna Grace Hottinger, high school sophomore, Shoreview, Minnesota 

“I think that when it happens, we're going to have lawmakers and leaders on board with us and we are going to be having all kinds of goals, such as being carbon neutral, being on the Paris Climate Agreement, and so many more things,” she said. “That is what accomplishment will look like. But it'll only look like that if we keep persisting, keep showing up and keep making our voices heard.”

This article is based on an interview that aired on PRI’s Living on Earth with Steve Curwood.


From Living on Earth ©2017 World Media Foundation