Hundreds of Maine students joined a global student strike Friday over a lack of action on climate change, following the lead of a 16-year-old Swedish girl who skipped school for three weeks to protest in front of Sweden’s parliament building.

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for her work.

“We all need to do what’s right for the world. That’s our job,” said Phoebe MacDonald, a third-grader at Ocean Avenue Elementary School in Portland. “We can’t wait for others to do it.”

Phoebe should know. It was a year ago when she made a presentation to the City Council against plastic straws, prompting the city manager to ban them in the City Hall cafe.

She was one of a half-dozen student speakers at Friday’s high-energy rally in Portland, where cheers and chanting broke out amid the speeches from the students.

Many students held signs, such as “Wake up Earth, it’s time to save your Mother,” “The oceans are rising and so are we,” and “Denial is not a policy.”


Simone Daranyi, an eighth-grader at Portland’s King Middle School, said she attended the rally because of her close connection to nature as a Peaks Island resident.

“It’s very important,” said Daranyi, holding a handmade sign reading “Believe Science. Act Now.” “We’re really connected to nature and it’s something we all have in common. We have to protect it.”

Friday’s rallies took place in cities in more than 100 countries, including Hong Kong; New Delhi; Wellington, New Zealand; and Oulu, Finland. In Berlin, more than 20,000 protesters gathered downtown, waving signs with slogans such as “March now or swim later” and “Climate Protection Report Card: F,” before marching through the capital’s government quarter.

“We are here today to show our lawmakers that things must change. Politicians haven’t taken the climate crisis seriously for decades,” said Anna Siegel, a seventh-grader at Friends School of Portland who helped organize the Portland rally. “We are here today because time is running out.”

Siegel, 12, is a student leader with YELL – Youth Environmental Leaders League – for Climate Justice, a climate-action team at the school.

In addition to Portland’s rally, similar climate action strikes and rallies were held in Brunswick, Lewiston, Bar Harbor and Scarborough. Some students held brief walkouts at their local schools. Several of the speakers in Portland urged their fellow students to remain engaged on climate-change issues and continue to press lawmakers for action.


“We can’t afford to be complacent any more,” said Kayley Roche of Kennebunk High School. “And until our legislators take action, we will.”

Siegel said student climate-change activists are planning an April 23 rally at the State House in Augusta, and she urged those at Friday’s rally to attend.

“The momentum will continue,” Siegel said.

At a rally in Stockholm on Friday, Thunberg said the world faces an “existential crisis, the biggest crisis humanity ever has faced and still it has been ignored for decades by those that have known about it.

“And you know who you are, you that have ignored this and are most guilty of this,” she said, as protesters cheered.

At the Portland rally, cheers in the crowd broke out as a series of students read Thunberg’s quotes, including “Our lives are in your hands,” and “This is a cry for help.”


After years on the political back burner, climate-related issues are once again on the policy agenda in Augusta. Democratic legislative leaders, who have majorities in both the Maine House and Senate, and Gov. Janet Mills have made it a top priority amid growing scientific evidence that climate change is already affecting Maine fisheries, farms and woodlands.

Recent research has shown that the Gulf of Maine is warming faster than almost anywhere else in Earth’s oceans.

“Our generation is standing tall, and we’re not going anywhere,” said Ruth Metcalfe, a sophomore at Kennebunk High School. “We need to stand up not only for our generation, but for every generation after us.”

Noel K. Gallagher can be reached at 791-6387 or at:

Twitter: noelinmaine

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