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The Youth Climate Strike as Seen by Teen Photographers

On March 15, young people around the world walked out of school and into the streets. From San Francisco to South Africa, an estimated 1.4 million students raised their collective voices to bring awareness to the urgency of climate change.

It was the largest ever global action against the harms of climate change, and it was pulled off entirely by children. A teenager named Greta Thunberg inspired the strike, and kids across the globe heeded her call, organizing strikes in their home towns, and showing up. Adults came out in support, but they were there to listen, not to lead. The message of the global climate strikes were clear: The youth will have to live on a climate-ravaged Earth, and so it is their voices that must be heard.

In that spirit, WIRED hired two teenage photographers to cover the climate strikes in the US from their perspective: In Atlanta, 17-year-old Henry W. Grady High School senior Esme Bella Rice photographed the strike in front of the Georgia State Capitol building; and in San Francisco, 18-year-old Ruth Asawa School of the Arts senior Max Buenviaje-Boyd photographed the large march from the Federal Building, through downtown, to Union Square.

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San Francisco native Buenviaje-Boyd has been to plenty of protests. "But what was really different about this one was that it was completely student-led and student-organized. There was this pride that we can do this by ourselves if we have to," he says of the feeling at the San Francisco strike. "And when it comes to climate issues, we will have to do this by ourselves. This is our future."

Buenviaje-Boyd said he couldn't stop smiling the whole day, as he clamored up scaffolding and even a tourist bus to get shots of the huge crowd in his city. "People were coming up from Dianne Feinstein’s office toward Union Square and I just asked one of those double-decker bus drivers if I could get on his bus and he was kind enough to let me," he says. "I got two good shots of the size of the crowd." That crowd surpassed his—and his friend Nadja Goldberg, who planned the event's—wildest expectations. The shots he captured show how the thousand or more students easily took over Market Street downtown.

The turnout in Atlanta, by contrast, was much smaller. Local student photographer Rice estimates that it was around 70 to 80 people. But they were equally passionate. "It's so empowering to see young people actually take responsibility to gather and do something," she says. Organizers gave planned speeches through megaphones, and passed out sheets of chants to the crowd, who yelled in unison loudly enough for passing cars to hear.

"There's such a stigma around teens, that everyone just does stuff for attention or to be cool," Rice says, "but they were there not to just brag about being at a protest and skipping school. They were there with a purpose and you could really see that."

The photos Buenviaje-Boyd and Rice captured document their generation showing up, standing up, and facing the future with purpose.

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