Wesley Nerhood didn’t go to school Friday. He, and more than 1 million others across the world, had something more important to do — protest climate change inaction.
When asked why he would miss school to protest, seven-year-old Nerhood, with protest sign in hand, was succinct: “To help the environment, duh.”
Billed as a global strike, people of all ages in countries across the globe left their jobs, classrooms and homes to walk the streets and stand on street corners demanding politicians and world leaders “do something.”
Basked in sunshine and temperatures in the upper 60s, more than 100 people gathered in protest at the five-points intersection in Winston-Salem, in front of U.S. Sen. Richard Burr’s office, one of at least four planned protests in the city that day.
“I’ve been on this street corner for nearly 20 years protesting climate change,” Sally Hirsh, a self-described local environmental activist said. “And now we finally have a movement.”
Seemingly everyone protesting had the same message: Climate change is real, it’s happening now and it will impact all of us.
“I don’t think anyone can really argue anymore about what’s going on,” Whitney Bohlen, the five-points protest organizer, said. “It’s insulting we have to be out here and neither of our senators are going to do anything about it.”
Bohlen’s protest, as well as three others in the city, are arms of an international “Climate Strike” spearheaded by 16-year-old Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg. Thunberg recently testified in front of Congress and at the United Nations on climate change. Students flooded the streets in cities like Baltimore, New York, Berlin, London and Nairobi, Kenya.
Nearly all present held signs, ranging from desperate pleas to save the planet, to telling people to “Believe in science!”
Some blamed Republican politicians, specifically President Donald Trump, for their inaction and Environmental Protection Agency policy rollbacks. “Love the Planet, Dump Trump” one sign read.
In Winston-Salem, protestors cheered loudly when passing vehicles, some of them semi-trucks, honked their horns in support. The chants were deafening at times, constant refrains of “climate change is real.”
One young child held a sign reading “There is no planet B!” with an illustration of Earth in the middle.
“I want politicians to start caring about the future and not about themselves and special interests,” University of North Carolina School of the Arts high school student Doriana Spurrell said.
Bree Hendrick, Wesley Nerhood’s mother, said this protest is about him, and children everywhere.
“He’s not going to be able to enjoy days like today because we’re running out of time,” Hendrick said.
Hendricks is right about running out of time, according to NASA. In the absence of major action to reduce carbon emissions, global temperature could rise an additional 10.8 degrees fahrenheit, according to a NASA study. Regardless, the planet will continue to warm in the coming decades due to the amount of greenhouse gasses emitted, the agency said.
“People are obviously worried about it,” Bohlen said.
The climate strikes are timed before the U.N Climate Summit on Monday at the U.N. Headquarters in New York . Thunberg led Friday’s New York strike in lower Manhattan’s Foley Square.