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Ari Rubenstein is a high school junior who one of the leaders of the DC area “Fridays for the Future” student protest group and a Co-Founder of the Mother Earth Project, which encourages communities worldwide to decorate parachutes with artwork and concerned comments about the environment, march with them, and take them to their local politicians to demand better climate laws.
ODP: How did you become motivated to become active in Fridays for the Future, when most kids your age are busy with academics and extra-curricular activities in high school?
AR: I decided that I had to find a way to make the time to do my school work, activities and save the world too. I probably spend 30 minutes to an hour a day on activism for climate change. I squeeze everything else in around that. Some of my friends in the movement spend even more time because they are home-schooled.
ODP: How many students are leading your organization locally? How are you growing your movement?
AR: The DC Chapter of Fridays for the Future has about 10 really active members who are leading it. We work closely with the chapters from other areas — we have organizing phone calls every week with students from other parts of the country. I find that the best way to spread the movement is not social media because we need real commitments from our members, not just social media engagement. It is a big commitment, so I encourage other students to join by word of mouth. I think that is the most effective way to grow.
ODP: What do you hope to accomplish with Fridays for the Future?
AR: We are fighting for the future, but we are fighting for the present too. I would love to see the US declare a climate emergency, re-join the Paris Accord, pass a Green New Deal, impose a carbon tax — honestly, just do something! We need action now by our government. The goal of the strikes is to put pressure on politicians and government leaders to act right away.
ODP: What does your generation of young people want older generations to understand about climate change?
AR: Adults need to understand that they caused the crisis, and it is disrespectful to us to call it a crisis for youth. It is a crisis for everyone, young and old. Older generations need to help us fix it. We need them to join our strikes, march with us, help us organize, fund our protests, pressure politicians to take action, and even to change their behavior in individual ways like using less plastic. We want adults to be part of the movement.
ODP: What do you say to young people who don’t think climate change is such a crisis?
AR: I honestly don’t come into contact with anyone who does not believe that climate is the crisis of our time. But if I did, I would try to persuade them by showing them the overwhelming science supporting the fact that it is an existential crisis and we are going to begin to see dire consequences and much more suffering within ten years if we do not act now. If they don’t believe the science, there is no point trying to convince them.
ODP: When is the next climate strike planned?
AR: In DC we have them nearly every Friday, including today. Anyone is welcome to meet us at the Capitol at 1 pm.
Thanks so much, Ari. We at ODP support what you and the other youth leaders are doing. We encourage all Friends of the Planet to join you today and at future strikes. WE STAND WITH YOU! And you can watch Ari’s speech at the climate strike on September 20th – just click here. And to learn about the Mother Earth Project and its Parachutes For The Planet, click here.
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