On March 15th young people around the world skipped school for the day to protest the handling of climate change by major world nations. The ‘Youth Strike 4 Climate’ has put politicians and sceptics to shame and highlights just how passionate the next generation of humanity really is about protecting their planet.
The kids have spoken and they are far from happy. Across the planet frustrated school children and climate activists took to the streets to show their anger towards climate change and the inaction to tackle it by world leaders. Inspired by the actions of Swedish teenager and activist Greta Thunberg the ‘Youth Strike 4 Climate’ was one of the largest ever global demonstrations of its kind. Over 1.5 million young people were involved in protests spanning 125 countries and their message was clear, they have had enough and it is time for change. Decades of inaction by politicians and corporations towards environmental problems means we are now within touching distance of a climate catastrophe. Urgent action is required to tackle the problem and young people are leading the charge in demanding it now.
Friday was not the first time Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg has skipped school to protest climate change. The 16 year old activist has ended every week since last August outside the government building in Stockholm to campaign against climate injustice. As a shy and introverted girl who rarely spoke up in the classroom she was an unlikely leader for a global climate rebellion. But in December Miss Thunberg did just that after giving a powerful speech at the United Nations Climate Conference in Poland that went viral. Her speech shocked millions of people for how brutally honest and well written it was as she told world leaders “you are not mature enough to tell it like it is, even that burden you leave to us children.” In January she also travelled by train to Davos in Switzerland for the World Economic Forum where she berated top executives for making “unimaginable amounts of money” at the expense of the planet’s future. Last week she was also nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for which she says she is “honoured and very grateful”. What started as one girl handing out flyers has now inspired a movement for young people worldwide which culminated in last week’s global strike.
It can be quite tricky to collect accurate stats for protests like this due to its incredible scale across multiple time zones. However organizers now believe they have a pretty good idea of how many people attended the events and where. They claim that in the 24 hour period over 1.5 million people, predominantly school children, took part in around 2,000 protests in 125 countries. This makes the ‘Youth Strike 4 Climate’ one of the largest ever co-ordinated demonstrations of its kind. The largest single protest is believed to have taken place in Montreal where 150,000 Canadian children marched through the city. But tens of thousands of young protesters could also be found in Paris, Dublin, Brussels, Berlin, Mumbai, Milan, Warsaw, Sydney and many more. There were also protests in Antarctica meaning that the strike took place on every single continent. Although the campaign was run globally the protests were all organised individually by local school children making this a truly youth led event.
Public & political reaction
Public reaction was in general overwhelmingly positive and supportive towards the cause, especially on social media. On twitter inspirational images and videos of the crowds flooded the site accompanied by trends as #fridaysforfutrue and #youthstrike4climate. Parents and schools were also very supportive of their children and pupils for standing up for what they believed in and in many cases were encouraging them to take action. Some critics have called out the protestors for being factually incorrect or over exaggerating. But they have been backed up by hundreds of scientists and experts around the globe who recognise the necessity of what the children are trying to accomplish.
However political views on the issue were more varied. Australia’s Education Minister Dan Tehan said “students leaving school during school hours to protest is not something that we should encourage” and in the UK Education Secretary Damian Hinds echoed that concern and complained that the disruption increased teacher’s workloads and wasted lesson time. However some politicians such as US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez praised the efforts of the strikers and encouraged them to continue fighting for what they believed in.
Telling it how it is
The most admirable thing about these youngsters is that they do not pull their punches and are brutally honest about the reality of the situation. Unlike past generations they are unwilling to hide their heads in the sand and ignore the facts. Climate breakdown is a frightening prospect for anyone, but especially a youngster who will have to live through it. Yet they are the only ones who are taking responsibility and are willing to do something about it. They are also wise enough to realise that the time window to reverse the effects of climate change is closing and action is needed immediately. This is all summed up in Greta Thunberg’s address to the World Economic Forum where she says “Adults keep saying that we owe it to the young people to give them hope. But I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day and then I want you to act. I want to act as if you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if the house is on fire. Because it is.”
Fighting for their future
What makes the protests of these school children so powerful is that they are the first generation who have grown up with the effects of climate change. For previous generations climate change was a problem that they would never truly have to deal with in their lifetimes. But that is no longer the case. These young people have grown up learning about how the world is changing and the effects we have on it and they can see that there is something extremely wrong going on. By the time we start to see the major effects of climate breakdown in the second half of this century those responsible will be long gone. Instead it is these amazing youngsters who will have to deal with a set of problems they have been forced to inherit. They are likely to be the first generation of humanity that will face challenges not just to the planet but to the survival of our species. But while they have demonstrated that they care about the environment and are willing to protect it they need our help now to ensure their futures.
A defining moment?
The ‘Youth Strike 4 Climate’ has not just been a show of strength and unity among young people across the world. It is a powerful message to politicians and executives that they have failed in tackling the issue and that urgent change is needed before the damage becomes irreversible. These youngsters have set a fantastic example not just for politicians but for all of us to follow. Their passion and willingness to tackle climate change and ensure a future for our planet and our species is admirable. They have also shown a level of maturity, responsibility and honesty that quite frankly embarrasses world leaders and governments. Hopefully their actions will inspire more young people to join the ever growing movement of activists in fighting for the future of our planet.