Iowa teens delighted as Greta Thunberg leads unexpected climate strike

Photograph: Daniel Acker/Reuters

Greta Thunberg’s surprise visit to Iowa City on Friday, the organizer and local climate activist, Massimo Biggers, a 14-year-old Iowa City high school student, was preparing to strike – as he has done every Friday, sometimes on his own, since the Global Climate Strike day Thunberg inspired on 15 March.” data-reactid=”16″>Three days prior to Greta Thunberg’s surprise visit to Iowa City on Friday, the organizer and local climate activist, Massimo Biggers, a 14-year-old Iowa City high school student, was preparing to strike – as he has done every Friday, sometimes on his own, since the Global Climate Strike day Thunberg inspired on 15 March.

Out of the blue, a message arrived from the Swedish teen activist, with whom he had been in touch, asking him if he was planning to strike again this Friday. “Of course!” he replied, and for the last 48 hours, according to his father, Jeff, neither had slept. “This was truly a miracle to have the town pull this together,” he said.

More than 3,000 people gathered at short notice in the shadow of the University of Iowa on Friday afternoon to hear Thunberg speak.

Attendees participate in a climate strike rally with climate change environmental teen activist Greta Thunberg, in Iowa City, Iowa. Photograph: Daniel Acker/Reuters

“Wow” said Thunberg, squinting in the sun, as the crowd chanted her name. “It’s just so many people I don’t think any of us expected this many people. This is real hope, so many people gathering on a weekday at such short notice. This is real hope to me,” she said.

Biggers has spent the last six months mobilizing fellow students to pressure the city council into adopting more stringent measures to address climate change.

“At the time our specific goal was to get the school board to pass a climate resolution,” he said in an interview with the Guardian. “But then it was pretty easy to get the school board to get a climate resolution so we went to the city council and now we’re trying to get the coal fired [power] plant shut down,” he added.

The University of Iowa burns coal at its power plant, providing a clear target for the young activists who lead the crowd in regular chants of “End Coal Now!”

“To be part of a global movement and especially at this stage, it’s just an amazing, amazing opportunity to see a global leader,” said Abbey Jordahl, a freshman at UI from Ankeny, Iowa. “Honestly I couldn’t believe it when I read that Greta was coming here, I was like … Iowa City?! What?! I’ve been following her for a while, honestly I can’t believe I’m here!”

Activist Greta Thunberg joins a climate strike march in Iowa City. Photograph: Daniel Acker/Reuters