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Chicago teens will rally for climate action in Grant Park, Federal Plaza, and Field Museum

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The demonstration on Friday will be followed by a week of global activism ahead of the U.N. Climate Action Summit

A crowd of teenagers and a demonstration holding sings reading “Fridays for Future” and “Time is Running Out.”
Student advocates participate in a climate strike outside the White House in Washington, D.C. on September 13
Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

On Friday, youth activists in Chicago will walk out of school to lead a protest demanding action on climate change as part of a Global Climate Strike. The mass demonstration is set to take place in 150 countries and more than 500 locations across the U.S. It is expected to be the largest climate mobilization in the nation’s history.

Demonstrators will gather in Grant Park at the intersection of Columbus Drive and Roosevelt Road at 11 a.m. on Friday, September 20. From there, participants will march to Federal Plaza where they will hold a rally featuring performances and speeches. Protestors are then welcome to head to the Field Museum which is hosting a free admission day for Illinois residents with a valid I.D.

“All people are welcome to participate, but this movement is really about the young people,” says Emily Graslie, chief curiosity correspondent at the Field Museum and keynote speaker at Friday’s downtown rally. “They are the ones calling on adults and world leaders to take action on climate change.”

Chicago strike organizer Isabella Johnson, a senior at Benet Academy in Lisle, Illinois, says she got involved in the cause after learning about the extent of the climate crisis.

“Scientists predict that if we do not take immediate action within the next 11 years, the worst effects of climate change will become unavoidable,” Johnson tells Curbed Chicago. “I refuse to sit by and do nothing.”

Although Chicago might be better situated compared to cities facing catastrophic droughts, wildfires, hurricanes, and rising coastlines, the climate crisis is nevertheless still felt here. Organizers hope the event will highlight the effects on a local scale. “We want to educate everyone about what the climate crisis really looks like,” adds Johnson.

Flooding, surging lake levels, extreme heat and cold weather have real economic consequences for Illinois homeowners—especially marginalized populations—as well as the state’s agricultural industry. Last month, Bloomberg reported that extreme weather led to 2019 being the worst year on record for Midwest farmers.

“It’s not a cheerful topic,” Graslie tells Curbed. “We’re talking about things that make people anxious. But these students are walking out of class to have this discussion. They’re asking ‘what good is an education if we have no planet to inherit?’ Climate change isn’t going to wait for them to finish school. It’s happening right now.”

The strike organizers hope to attract the attention of the Illinois assembly and Governor JB Pritzker as the push for the passage of the Illinois Clean Energy Jobs Act. The proposed legislation aims to move Illinois to 100 percent renewable energy as well as incentivize electric vehicles and the development of more EV charging stations.

Friday’s coordinated protests are inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who led the first-ever school climate strike in 2018. This year’s global demonstration will be followed by a week of continued activism ahead of the United Nations Climate Action Summit on September 23.

More information on the Chicago Youth Climate Strike can be found on the event’s website on the Action Network and Facebook page.