They marched. They sang. They chanted. Perhaps to parental dismay, some indulged in an occasional profanity — directing ire at a president who has cast doubt on climate change, the baby boomer generation whose consumption has helped fuel it and the carbon-emitting fossil fuel industry that profits despite it.
But anger and frustration over a warming world bubbled over into jubilation as thousands of Seattle-area students played civic hooky, parading from Cal Anderson Park in Capitol Hill to Seattle City Hall with a colorful — and hopeful — display of costumes and posters of earthy quips.
“If you don’t act like adults We will,” read one. “Act now or swim later,” said another.
“Not the hot girl summer I had in mind,” joked another, playing off an internet meme
The Seattle students joined millions around the world, from New York City to Melbourne, Australia, in expressing anxiety over the planet’s warming and what that means for their futures.
“It’s hard to imagine, ‘What is my job going to be?’, when we don’t know if there will be a planet,” said Casey Griffin, 15, who was skipping classes at Ballard High School.
“My life expectancy could be shortened because of how rapidly the climate is warming. I need to think about whether it makes sense to have kids,” said Lilah Amon-Lucas, 14, a freshman at the Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences and a march organizer.
Amon-Lucas said she regretted missing important classes that she liked at school, but “this is the best way as a young person and a not-yet voter to make my voice heard.”
Seattle Public Schools isn’t excusing absences for students who attend climate-strike events, despite other cities’ public schools doing so, and despite a public pressure campaign from students and the Seattle City Council.
“This matters more than school, when it comes to an existential crisis like climate change,” said Thomas Koehnline, a Garfield High School sophomore.
Parisa Harvey helped organize the Youth Climate Strike in Seattle, but the 15-year-old acknowledged the privilege she and other students have to skip school and protest.
“Minority groups and people of lower socioeconomic status are more likely to live in environmentally hazardous areas and experience asthma, heart attacks and premature death,” said Parisa, who attends the private University Prep in North Seattle. “They’re directly feeling the effects of climate change more than their white counterparts. Black and brown lungs matter.”
At Cal Anderson Park Friday morning, where the demonstrators convened, politicians, scientists, doctors and other adults joined the spectacle, many struck by the spirited outcry.
“I’ve been impressed,” said state Rep. Nicole Macri, D-Seattle, whose district includes Capitol Hill.
“I agree, the politicians aren’t doing enough,” she added, in reaction to a common student sentiment. She and her staffers shared a chuckle over the sometimes irreverent student signs.
“Some good f-bombs,” she said. “I kind of love the ones that are most direct … ones that focus on the fact that we’re failing the next generation. Young people today, they’ve got a point.”
Curtis Deutsch, a University of Washington associate professor of oceanography who researches climate change effects, said the young activists’ “energy, their knowledge, their ability to process and grapple with something scary,” but not be defeated by it, was inspiring.
As students expressed anxiety, some adults shared regret with the upcoming generation.
Victoria Hsieh, 17, a Bellevue High School senior and organizer, said she’d heard apologies from adults who regretted leaving a mess for her generation.
“No one should be apologizing. Show us with your actions,” said Hsieh, who hopes to study engineering, environmental studies and business in college before becoming an operations officer for a large company “redirecting supply chains to be sustainable” and aiming toward a “circular economy.”
Fellow organizer Olivia Schroeder, 17, who attends Lakeside High School, said she was frustrated with classmates who expressed a sense of hopelessness over climate change.
“The worst thing is when people think individual action doesn’t matter,” Schroeder said, saying you only needed “one person — yourself — and another” to start a movement.
Both Schroeder and Hsieh said they were thrilled to be nearing voting age.
“I’m looking for a presidential candidate who puts climate change as the No. 1 issue,” Schroeder said.
The organizers said they were pleased by the turnout.
Not everyone was thrilled. Norman Byrd, who owns a landscaping business, got stuck in his pickup a block from his destination as the demonstrators traveled on Pike Street, which he said was a “pain.”
“Boy, they’ve got a lot of people,” he said with a sigh.
Climate change, Byrd said, was not a major concern for him.
“You can see I’m driving a Tundra [pickup] that gets 10 miles to the gallon,” he said. “I think it’s a good cause, but won’t do much.”
Along the route, the protest took on a cheerful tone. Young children trotted with excitement through the crowd. Horns provided a steady beat for footsteps. Watching from the sidewalk, a gray-haired woman pumped her hands into the air as if it were a Rolling Stones show, her fingers forming peace signs.
“It’s gone on so long,” said Jeani Krogstad. “The kids are so passionate.”
In the crowd, Nikki Dziedzic, of Maple Valley, was pushing her toddler, Jude, in a stroller alongside other marchers.
Dziedzic said Jude’s arrival had spurred her to protest over climate change.
“I’m worried they’re going to be fighting for resources,” she said of Jude’s generation.
Evelyne Hanson, Jude’s grandmother, stepped into the conversation.
“She doesn’t want to give me another grandchild because of climate change,” Hanson said with some dismay.
It was Jude’s first protest, Dziedzic said, and it felt good to be marching with the teenagers.
“It makes me feel hopeful. These are the next policymakers. If this is prioritized, we have a chance to take action.”
Seattle Times staff reporter Neal Morton contributed to this story.