Amazon software engineer Madhu's hometown of Chennai, India, has extreme temperatures and must bring water by train because of drought. “That’s what really spurred me to think hard and long about climate change and the impact it’s having on human lives.”
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Amazon software engineer Madhu's hometown of Chennai, India, has extreme temperatures and must bring water by train because of drought. “That’s what really spurred me to think hard and long about climate change and the impact it’s having on human lives.”
Credit: KUOW Photo/Amy Radil

Thousands gather in Seattle to demand government action on fossil fuels, climate change

Thousands of activists walked out of school and work on Friday to gather at Cal Anderson Park and the Amazon Spheres and march to Seattle City Hall.

The activists say they want immediate government action on climate change. Seattle’s rallies were part of a global climate strike inspired by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.

Thunberg started “Fridays for the Future,” a movement calling for students to skip school on Fridays to advocate for public policies that reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

Friday’s global climate strike was the second of 2019.

It included more than 2,500 marches and rallies around the world, including dozens in Washington state.

About 2,500 students, parents, and other adults gathered at Cal Anderson Park.

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A festive atmosphere at the Friday climate march in Seattle.
Credit: KUOW/Amy Radil


They chanted about keeping oil in the ground and held signs that said things like “The temperature’s rising, [or] the seas are rising, so we are too,” or “I’d be in school if the earth were cool,” or “Missing one day of school won’t end the world — climate change will!”

There were also a lot of signs about protecting the future and focusing on future generations over profit. One sign held by a high-school-aged boy said, “Climate change is real, Dad.”

“Young people are the ones who have to deal with it,” said Athena Brkanac, a 13-year-old from Washington Middle School.

“It’s like, okay, so my dad, he’s going to be dead,” Brkanac said. “By the time I have my children, like, what are they going to have?”

An Nguyen and friend Andrea Hitti-Magee joined the student strike at Cal Anderson park in Seattle.
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An Nguyen and friend Andrea Hitti-Magee joined the student strike at Cal Anderson park in Seattle.
Credit: Eilis O'Neil


“They’re going to have a world where it’s going to be just so much different.”

Many of the students focused on significantly cutting back or even eliminating carbon emissions by 2030.

And others just wanted to be heard and taken seriously. “When people talk about young people, they always think of, like, ‘Oh, they can’t do anything, because they’re not really grown up and they don’t have power in this world,’” said An Nguyen, a junior at Nathan Hale.

“But today we show that young people have such a wide reach in our society through social media and through just everyday life.”

Google engineer Sam Kern says tech industry has ushered in new problems and companies must take responsibility. “Climate change is — and must be — a work-appropriate conversation. ... Climate action IS your job."
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Google engineer Sam Kern says tech industry has ushered in new problems and companies must take responsibility. “Climate change is — and must be — a work-appropriate conversation. ... Climate action IS your job."
Credit: KUOW Photo/Amy Radil


“We want to show up to show that there are a lot of people who care about this issue,” Nguyen said.

There were many other rallies and marches throughout the Puget Sound area.

One of the biggest was at the Amazon Spheres. A couple thousand tech workers gathered there to demand that the companies they work for stop supporting oil and gas companies and end their dependence on fossil fuels.

One Amazon software engineer, Madhu "Krish,” said he’s from Chennai, India.

He said the region’s experiencing a severe drought, and the city ran out of water a few months ago; they’re having to bring water in by train. He said the maximum temperatures are so high now the city’s becoming unlivable.

“That’s what really spurred me to think hard and long about climate change and the impact it’s having on human lives,” Krish said.

Amazon employees called Jeff Bezos’ new commitment to net carbon neutrality by 2040 a victory, but said they want changes to occur at least a decade earlier and with more urgency.

Google engineer Sam Kern told the crowd that climate change is an urgent issue for all tech workers. “We pass signs in the hallways telling us to ‘focus on the user, put the user first’” she said. “Now, putting the user first means doing everything we can to fight for their homes, for their families, their futures.”

Amazon senior technical program manager Roshni Naido credited Greta Thunberg and the youth movement for the presence of so many tech workers at Friday’s strike. She said, “Over the past couple days many colleagues of all levels have come up to me at work, and said they are joining the global walkout, because their children care about it.”