Charlotte Corcoran is getting used to walking out of class to protest the issues she views as threats to her future.
When she was 14, she marched out of Roland Park Country School carrying a sign that read: “I’m missing a day of school because 17 are missing the rest of their lives," a reference to the Parkland, Florida, school shooting. Now she’s 15, and on Friday she joined thousands of other students across Maryland in skipping school to call attention to the devastating effects of climate change.
Charlotte and her friends can’t vote, “but these walkouts show we care and can make our voices heard,” she said.
Youth voices are among the loudest in the global fight against a warming planet. The climate strike in Baltimore was one of hundreds scheduled to take place across the globe on the Friday before the United Nations’ climate summit.
Many in Baltimore carried signs referencing the ongoing strikes of Swedish teenager and climate activist Greta Thunberg, who crossed the Atlantic Ocean in a solar-powered boat to take part in the New York City actions.
Many of the young people protesting said they think often about the way climate change could devastate their futures.
One emotional student standing in front of Baltimore City Hall took the megaphone: “I’m growing up in a world that’s dying faster than I am.”
Handwritten posters carried an equally dire message: “Our house is on fire,” some read.
Trinity Eimer, 17, often considers the effects of her consumption habits and takes steps to help her family become more sustainable. But she still has a gripping fear about what’s going to happen in the next few decades.
“Is climate change going to be the cause of some of my friends dying?” she wondered.
Some students at Baltimore’s protest said they and their friends often discuss whether they should forego having children when they’re older, out of concern for what kind of world they’d be leaving their kids.
“I have a little sister," said 18-year-old Nakiyan Johnson, who marched three miles from Baltimore City College. "She wants to live a life. We’re doing this for generations to come, not just for us.”
The urban poor in dozens of large U.S. cities will experience more heat than the wealthy, simply by virtue of where they live. Average annual temperatures in Baltimore have gone up more than 3 degrees over the last century, nearly twice as much as the rest of the country.
The youths turned their demands into chants, shouting things like, “Hey hey, ho ho, fossil fuels have got to go.” Some spoke in favor of the proposed Green New Deal legislation, the need to protect and restore biodiversity, and to promote sustainable agriculture.
Many spoke as if they were addressing President Donald Trump, urging him not to ignore children’s voices and scientists’ warnings.
City Councilman Kristerfer Burnett briefly addressed the crowd, commending students for pushing lawmakers to enact more environmentally friendly laws, like the ban on polystyrene food packaging products that was approved last year.
In a statement, Baltimore City Public Schools said that it will support the walkouts and that teachers are encouraged to use the protest as a jumping-off point for further discussion on climate change.
Middle school environmental science teacher Sarah Howell came to the Baltimore rally with her students from The Park School. She hopes joining in an action with hundreds of other people will give the kids hope.
“They’re 11, 12, 13 years old and it’s something they’ll have to continue to deal with," Howell said. "They feel frustrated the adults around them haven’t done more. ... It affects everybody, in all corners of the world and in our own neighborhoods”
Students across the region participated in the demonstration, as protests were planned in Anne Arundel, Frederick, Howard and Montgomery counties, according to Global Climate Strike.
There also were protests Friday on college campuses, including Maryland Institute College of Art, Loyola University of Maryland and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
In Annapolis, students marched to the Alex Haley Memorial at City Dock to participate in a “die in,” where they pretended to have died for 10 minutes.
The idea originates from a statement from María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés of Ecuador, who, citing an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, warned that there is limited time to take action on climate change before irreparable damage is done to the planet.
The 10 minutes represented the 10 years left to take action.
Baltimore Sun Media reporters Rachael Pacella, Thalia Juarez and Phil Davis and the Capital News Service contributed to this article.