September 20 — 11:31 am, 2019

Severe weather drives home impact of climate change

"This should not be normal."

Lorraine Ruppert

The rally, named “Philadelphia Strikes Back” was organized by several environmental organizations, including Youth Climate Lobby PA, 350 Philly, and the Sunrise Movement. (Jonathan Wilson for WHYY)

Two years ago, after Hurricane Maria, my understanding of the climate crisis completely changed. I used to live in the southern United States and have family in Taiwan — an island that heavily experiences “typhoon season”— so I was used to these types of natural disasters.

Fortunately, I did not experience Maria myself, but from what I already knew about hurricanes, this was different — a Category 5 storm that is often regarded as “the worst natural disaster in recorded history” to affect the Caribbean islands of Puerto Rico and the Bahamas. The death toll was around 3,000. This should not be normal.

A two-year-long, and still ongoing, recovery. This should not be normal.

The rise of more frequent severe storms is unnatural. It is one of the many outcomes of unsustainability, a culture of waste, and an average 2.57 million pounds of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere every second. It is one of the many outcomes of manmade global warming.

At that time, I remember being told by my friends that I talk about the climate issue too much. That it is not something I should be so worried about. But the truth is, the statistics are incredibly alarming, and we already are experiencing the results of environmental apathy.

Before long, my passion led to action. And the passion of millions of students from around the world turned into action. I no longer feel alone for wanting climate solutions now.

Today, Friday, Sept. 20, youth from all across the world are striking for a better future. We are demanding climate action at the local, national, and international levels for a Green New Deal; respect for indigenous land and sovereignty; environmental justice; protection and restoration of biodiversity; and the implementation of sustainable agriculture.

In Philadelphia specifically, we are asking for 100% renewable energy by 2030, no new fossil fuel projects, and a just transition to a clean economy.

These goals will in no way come easily, but that is exactly why it is so important to get to work now. The longer our politicians wait, the harder the transition will be.

Wanting environmental action is not – nor should it be – addressed as a partisan issue. Left, right, young, old, Italian, Kenyan, Australian – however you uniquely identify yourself, it does not make a difference in regard to whether you will be affected by the ecological catastrophe we are up against.

We are all impacted in one way or another — and maybe that is the unifying truth we should use to erase the superficial lines that society draws between us to separate our minimal differences. There is no more time to question whether the climate crisis is something you “believe.” Instead, it is time to come together to fight against our mistakes from the past.

As the American people, we need to change our mindset. It is time to change the types of conversations we have about the climate crisis. It is time to get involved.

You (yes, you reading this) can start by participating in the Global Strike Week (Sept. 20- 27). Join a local chapter of an environmental advocacy group like the Sunrise Movement, Youth Climate Lobby, Trash Academy, Fossil Free USA, 350, Greenpeace, Sierra Club, Zero Hour, and/or US Youth Climate Strikes. Call and write to your state representatives and tell them to no longer support fossil fuel projects. Change your lifestyle: buy sustainably, reduce the amount of plastic you buy, reuse glasses instead, do not support fast fashion, go thrifting, eat less meat (particularly beef and lamb).

We can alleviate the human-made environmental damage since the Industrial Revolution if we all do our parts together. A cleaner, greener future starts today.

See you on the streets.

For more information find PA Climate Strikes on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook @climatestrikepa

Lorraine Ruppert is a Lower Merion student and creative director at PA Climate Strike. You can reach the Pennsylvania chapter at

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