A profile on three teenage girls who skip school every Friday to protest climate change.
Photo by Andy McMillian
LUCIA PAULSEN, MARY ELLIS STEVENS, and KATE HARRISON, girls who haven’t yet celebrated their 15th birthdays, stand in front of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center uptown on a Friday in early May. Around them, a group of about 20 others, mostly teenagers, support the North Carolina Youth Climate Strike, which the three girls have led since early this year. They’re holding signs that say, “System change not climate change” and, “The oceans are rising and so are we,” as Paulsen, Stevens, and Harrison pass around a microphone and call on city leaders to act against climate change—fast.
At 11 a.m., they put down their posters and microphones, cover their mouths with surgical masks, close their eyes, and lie on the concrete. Eleven minutes later, a timer rings, and the protestors stand to address the group again.
The elevens aren’t random numbers. In October 2018, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report that stated policymakers have until 2030, only 11 years—hence the 11 minutes of the Youth Climate Strike’s “die-in” protest—to enact changes to prevent the worst effects of climate change.