It’s Not A One-Time Thing

Below is my speech from the climate strike on Sept. 20, plus some additional thoughts:

I’m speaking to you today because this is not my first school strike. That was in the spring, on Friday, April 5, when my friend Marianne and I sat down on Parrish Porch with big signs and stayed there for four hours. After that first day, I came back every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for the rest of the semester. I’ll be upfront with you, I didn’t skip any classes for it – but I did make a commitment to not do any of my regular schoolwork whenever I was on strike. I was striking from the usual way of things.

The reason we did this, and the reason I plan to continue striking, is that we felt a lot of people still hadn’t woken up to the reality that our house is on fire, that our lives are about to change if they haven’t already. We felt we needed to stop and give ourselves the time to talk about this: time to understand the severity of our situation and explore what it means for our lives.

So a lot of what I have to say today comes out of that work I did, and continue to do.

It’s time for us to tell the truth. That climate change might not be something we can “fix” or “solve” or “stop.” Do you understand that the last time that CO2 levels in the atmosphere were this high, global temperatures were 3-4°C warmer, sea levels were 15 to 20 meters higher, and trees grew at the South Pole? We students don’t have bright futures ahead of us, at least not in the way that most of the adults who tell us that probably have in mind.

I know that some people might think I shouldn’t be saying these things. I’m ok with that. This is my truth, and I’m not interested in being dishonest with you.

It’s time for our teachers, the people we look up to and trust, to come clean and tell it like it is. Don’t conceal from us the dire realities and possibilities. Don’t just make vague references to the deep problems we face. Tell us how afraid you are about how our lives are going to turn out and be honest enough to admit that you don’t know what to do. And please, please, don’t act like the problems don’t exist, don’t matter. That silence is the worst of all.

We need your support, and we also need your honesty. As James Baldwin wrote, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

But it’s not just about words, of course. It’s about action too. None of us knows exactly what to do. And we’re so immersed in a toxic culture that it can be very hard to see clearly. But we have a lot of clues, and between us all, we have a lot of gifts – each of us has something to bring to the table – so we have to try to change, and do what climate collapse asks of us, even if where we need to go, what we can do, isn’t obvious right now.

At the very least, we have a starting point. It starts with refusing to close your eyes to what’s happening to our Mother, the Earth. It starts with the end of denial, coming to terms with hard truths, realizing how entangled is our current way of life with the destruction of our Earth, with the theft of countless lives, belonging to people whose names we’ll probably never know. It starts with accepting that maybe you can’t drink coffee every day, maybe you can’t have the life you thought you were going to have, the life that so many people taught you to expect. It starts with understanding that anything that’s normal is absurd, and so we need to change everything. It starts with a mourning of our losses and a letting go of certain expectations, and then a coming together to ask ourselves, “What is the world we owe the children of the future? More importantly, what is the world we owe each other, right now? What if we actually believed that each of us was born into this world with a responsibility to live in balance and harmony with all living things, human and non-human?” 

And from there, we need to ask, “What would it take to build the resilient and regenerative cultures the world needs, starting here, starting now? Can we find the courage to break with the social norms that keep us on this pathway to complete destruction, the courage to leave the familiar behind so that we can enter the unknown and discover new possibilities?”

So I invite you to join me back here at two today, to start (or continue) the learning and unlearning we need to do, the conversations we need to have. We’ll have chairs and reading lists, but most importantly, we’ll have ourselves, and all the knowledge and power we already hold and will need to draw on and develop in the times to come. So please meet me here. This movement can’t just be about symbolic actions, it can’t just be about changing the minds of some politicians. We have to change ourselves too. We have new worlds to make, and it’s time to get to work.


Around 20 students, faculty, and staff did meet that Friday afternoon. As the conversation drew to a close, the students decided that we would come back together the next week — that we would commit to making a time and space where we could slow down, be ourselves, reflect, and connect with one another.

And so, we have been gathering, every Friday from 4:30 to 6:00 on Parrish Porch, and we invite anyone who wishes to come to come, for however long they like. 

Last week started off with a couple of us hanging out, sharing stories from the week over pita chips, hummus, craisins, sunflower seeds, almonds, and roasted acorns. Once more people showed up, we read the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address together in a circle, and then spent some time learning and talking about time banking. We’re not really sure what this space is right now, we have no idea what it will become, we’re taking things one step at a time, and there’s still a lot to figure out, but together we are sowing the seeds of possibility. We hope you will join us. We need your skills, we need your knowledge, we need your power, and we need your dreams.

One more thing...

The school strike continues!

Every Friday, from 12:00 to 3:00 on Parrish Porch.

Making a time and space to learn and talk about climate change, and (more importantly) process what it means to live in a time of intensifying climate breakdown.

Weekly visits, one-time visits, long visits, short visits, all are welcome.

Have any questions? Interested in becoming a regular striker?

Write to me at slin3@swarthmore.edu or better yet, come to the strike to talk to me in person!