Discussion Guide for Youth Climate Strikes and September 20-27 Week of Action
Teams may use this guide to facilitate structured conversations with other moms and parents leading up to the week of September 20th-27th. Ideally, this guide helps bring together circles of parents to learn and be inspired to act, right along our young climate activists. The quotes, videos, and activities suggested can help guide and support conversations with moms/others interested in learning and taking action. Bring together 10 moms/others to connect, share fears and hopes about protecting our kids from a world of climate chaos and harm.
How this works:
We estimate that it should take roughly 90 minutes to discuss and facilitate the content provided here. People can read background information, like what Mothers Out Front is doing in Massachusetts, on their own. We recommend that you focus on the quotes and activities suggested, and videos provided. The goal is to engage new mothers in climate organizing at a time when parents are paying attention and youth are calling on us to act.
This guide contains:
- Introduction and opening activity
- Why are youth climate activists striking and guided activities
- Context on the climate crisis and guided activities
- Background reading on what Mothers Out Front moms are doing in Massachusetts (people may read this on their own)
- Suggested actions
Open the gathering with a quick welcome to everyone, go over the purpose of this parent gathering and this discussion guide.
Opening activity: (10 min)
Turn to the person next to you and share:
- Your name, how many kids you have, or how many kids you have in your life who you care about (if you are not a parent),
- What is your superpower? (for example, multi-tasker, listener, advocate, etc.)
- If you could, how would use your superpower to protect children from the climate chaos.
Why are young people going on school strike to demand urgent climate action?
This is a critical moment in human history. Global fossil fuel emissions from our use of oil, coal, and gas are still going up, driving our climate crisis further towards catastrophe. All around the world youth have been going on school strike to demand urgent climate action to protect their health, safety, lives and futures. Collective action and power may be our last and best chance—and there is a huge opportunity for us, as adults, to participate in this historic moment and help us capture the victory we need to turn the global tide towards urgent climate action.
The youth have been leading the way… Are we following them?
Ask for volunteers to read the quotes below out loud about what motivates them to organize for the Youth Climate Strike.
“This is potentially the biggest threat facing my generation and I couldn't forgive myself if I didn't stand up now.” - Thea, 17
"The moment we decide to fulfill something, we can do anything. And I’m sure that the moment we start behaving as if we were in an emergency, we can avoid climate and ecological catastrophe. Humans are very adaptable: we can still fix this. But the opportunity to do so will not last for long. We must start today. We have no more excuses."- Greta Thunberg
Watch together: Note: if projection equipment is not available, ask the participants to team up in pairs and watch the video together on a phone.
Group Activity (10 min):
Turn to the person next to you and share:
- What are your reactions to this video?
- How does it affect you as a parent to hear kids talking about fears of their future?
Big group: Ask if anyone is willing to share reactions from their groups
Ask audience members to read each line below from the mission statement of US Youth Climate Strike. Then, take a few minutes to ask someone to share what most resonated with them from this paragraph and why.
We, the youth of America, are striking because the science says we have just a few years to transform our energy system, reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, and prevent the worst effects of climate change. We are striking because our world leaders have yet to acknowledge, prioritize, or properly address our climate crisis. We are striking because marginalized communities across our nation —especially communities of color, disabled communities, and low- income communities— are already disproportionately impacted by climate change. We are striking because if the social order is disrupted by our refusal to attend school, then the system is forced to face the climate crisis and enact change. With our futures at stake, we call for radical legislative action to combat climate change and its countless detrimental effects on the American people.
You have heard what young people expressing fears about their future have to say. What is being asked of us as parents?
Earlier this year, 47 youth activists from around the world issued a global call to action to adults to join them in demanding governmental action. Inspired by the actions of young climate activists, Greta Thunberg, youth activists are organizing a global strike on Friday, September 20th and kicking off a week-long climate action mobilization.
Ask for a volunteer to read out loud and then ask for one or two people to share: What does it mean to you to “step alongside” young people?
Greta Thunberg and 46 youth climate activists:
“We’re asking adults to step up alongside us … today, so many of our parents are busy discussing whether our grades are good, or a new diet or the Game of Thrones finale – whilst the planet burns. But to change everything, we need everyone. It is time for all of us to unleash mass resistance … if we [demand change] in numbers we have a chance.”
Here is an opportunity to hear from Alexandria Villasenor, co-founder of US Youth Climate Strike & founder of EarthUprising.
Watch in pairs on your cell phone, if you have no video equipment (5 min in small groups).
Share in pairs: What are YOUR kids saying? How would you have a conversation with your child/children/grandchildren about the climate crisis?
In big group: Can you share some ideas about what came up in your groups?
Now, read this quote from young leader, Greta Thunberg.
“We are now at a time in history where everyone with any insight of the climate crisis that threatens our civilization and the entire biosphere must speak out in clear language, no matter how uncomfortable and unprofitable that may be. We must change almost everything in our current societies. The bigger your carbon footprint is, the bigger your moral duty. The bigger your platform the bigger your responsibility. Adults keep saying we owe it to the young people to give them hope. But I don't want your hope, I don't want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic, I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act, I want you to act as if you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if the house was on fire, because it is.”
Group Activity (10 min):
Turn to the person next to you and talk about:
- How would you talk to other parents about what Greta says is our moral responsibility?
- What happens if we DO use 9/20 to show enough global collective power to turn the tide and accelerate climate action? What happens if we don’t do enough to seize this opportunity?
Big group: is anyone willing to share?
Context on the climate crisis
We know, from the urgency expressed by young people, scientists ringing the alarm, extreme weather patterns, and natural disasters in the US and abroad, that the harm from the climate crisis on our health and safety will continue to increase until we stop burning oil, coal and gas for energy. People are losing homes, being displaced, forced to migrate, experienced health issues, and facing a future uncertain for their children.
- The devastating impacts of extreme weather patterns, intensity and frequency of natural disasters are affecting communities across the world and the United States, especially communities of color, low-income, and immigrant communities.
- In Massachusetts, for communities like Winthrop, Quincy, and East Boston, rising sea levels will have devastating consequences. All children’s lives are threatened by extreme weather events.
- Heat waves/droughts & hotter school classrooms
- Shrinking water supply
- More frequent blizzards
- Gas explosions, like in the Merrimack Valley
- Wildfires & tornadoes
- Rising sea levels & flooded streets
The health and well-being of all families and children, especially those in vulnerable communities, are also at stake. For example:
- It is getting harder to breathe because of worse allergies, asthma and air pollution.
- Our food supply is threatened; the nutritional value of food is being undercut by climate change.
- We are exposed to new and infectious diseases, including through bigger territories of disease-carrying ticks.
Activity in big group (10 min):
- How have you and your family been affected by the climate crisis? Do these images mean anything to you?
- Do your kids or grandkids talk to you about the climate crisis? How does it make you feel to know that their lives are affected in the ways described above?
- How do you think communities with less resources are affected?
What Mothers Out Front moms are doing in Massachusetts
The gas explosions of the Merrimack Valley and Lawrence, where a young man tragically lost his life and many families were left without heat and ability to cook, is why our moms are fighting to transition our state beyond dirty gas. Thousands of gas leaks across Massachusetts communities increase greenhouse emissions, kill trees, and pollute the air our kids breathe. “Natural” gas is mostly methane, a greenhouse gas that has a potent warming effect on the earth’s atmosphere.
Our volunteer moms have been fighting for utilities to fix leaks across the state, and urge utilities and lawmakers to transition our state off fracked gas. If you want to learn more about our work, take a look at our statewide work:
Mothers out Front legislation at the state house (Background information only)
- Click HERE to learn about the three legislative bills our moms are working on and how you can raise your voice.
Beyond Gas Campaign (Background information only)
"We have a choice. We can allow children to continue shouldering the burden of this leadership, or we can use our power as mothers to be their outspoken and public ally in this fight for their lives. We can take the organizing we have been doing in our towns and cities and make it louder and bigger and connected to the global climate movement. We need moms around the country to hear about us and be inspired to join us.
- Mothers out Front leaders, Rebecca Woodward and Nili Pearlmutter
How will we respond, as moms, dads, grandparents and caretakers? What actions will we take? That’s the question our young people are putting in front of us. September 20 offers an opportunity for us to put our arms around young people in small and big ways.
We recommend a few ways that you can talk to other moms and parents to build participation for September 20 and the climate mobilization week.
Wear the “Care about the climate and kids? Lets’ talk” button at back-to-school functions to inspire conversation about why young people are striking.
“Care about the climate and kids? Let’s talk” will be sent to Mothers Out Front team coordinators the week of August 26th. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you need to order more.
- Build participation in the Boston Climate Strike by asking each member of your team to bring 3 moms/others with her. RSVP here to attend the Boston Youth Climate Strike.
- Ask youth in your community what support they need for local school strike events.
- Host a parent teach-in/small group discussion with other moms from your child’s school, day care or neighborhood.
- Host an ArtBuild using the ideas shared here or create your own art and display it in public spaces to spark climate conversations with community members.
- Find out how you can speed the transition to clean energy in your local community. Consider joining our campaign for Electric School Buses. Click here to learn more.
- Raise your voice with your legislators about being a climate voter. Click here to find your legislator and their contact information.
- Follow Mothers Out Front on Facebook or Twitter to learn about fast-breaking opportunities for actions.
Thank you for participating in this teach-in/group conversation! This is an important step in building relationships and commitments with moms/parents who may be new to these conversations. You can adopt this guide to fit your needs. We want to empower you to use it at various places, whether meeting moms at a coffee shop or at a playground. If you are meeting outside or need a shorter time frame for any reason, feel free to pare down the content, as long as you leave time for interactive activities.