Striking for a better future

 By Livia Formisani
We want you to follow the Paris agreement and the IPCC reports. We don't have any other manifests or demands, [that] you unite behind the science - that is our demand

Greta Thunberg

March 15, 2019: 2083 events in 125 countries to request stricter environmental legislation against climate change gathered over 1.5 million participants, according to the organizers. It’s the worldwide reach of the School Strike for Climate movement, launched in 2018 by Greta Thunberg, a 16-year old Swedish student

Also known as Fridays For Future and #ClimateStrike, the international student movement has gained tremendous momentum all over the world, from Tasmania to Mali, Argentina to South Korea, Taiwan to Uganda.
In Sydney, some 30,000 students joined the protest on March 15 – same in Brussels. “Heat waves, floods and hurricanes are killing hundreds of people and devastating communities in all our world. Climate change is a deadly reality”, says the description of the March 15 manifestation in Sao Paulo, Brazil. “Students are the first to be concerned about our future, and we do not want to inherit a planet increasingly contaminated by CO2, the main cause of global warming” says the Buenos Aires event page. In Maastricht, students said they march to “send all politicians one message before provincial and European elections: we are MANY, we are IMPATIENT, and we want CHANGE”.

Thousands of school students attended the global #ClimateStrike rally at Town Hall in Sydney (Reuters)

Greta Thunberg

It all started in August 2018, when Thunberg, who has been interested in climate change since the age of 9, started skipping school on Fridays to protest in front of the Swedish Parliament, calling for stricter environmental protection policies. She documented her activism on social media, where her posts soon went viral, inspiring youth on a global scale. Since then, thousands of students demonstrated all over the world on Fridays, and Thunberg herself went on to speak at the European Commission, the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP24) and the World Economic Forum 2019. In a strong tone, she consistently denounced the lack of initiative of politicians and leaders in face of climate change. Due to her activism, she was nominated one of the world’s 25 most influential teenagers of 2018 by Time magazine, and in March 2019 she became the youngest candidate ever for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Activist Greta Thunberg speaks during the global demonstration "Global strike for future" in Stockholm (Reuters)

Thunberg’s actions are inspiring her peers to take action against climate change with a renewed sense of urgency. “We need to change the system, as if we were in crisis, as if there were a war going on, she told The New Yorker. Her activism comes as a ray of hope in face of terrifying warnings, such as the IPCC SR15 report, and the more recent studies on thawing Arctic permafrost and Greenland’s ice sheets. “It comes at a time in which most of us see first-hand the effect of climate change, with extreme weather events taking place on a global scale, and it provides students with a framework to act, as the world leaders fail to translate the Paris Agreement into concrete regulation”.

Adults of tomorrow

The movement has considerably grown since its 2018 inception, with more and more students joining the Friday protests, which continue in a great number of locations and on an ongoing basis after March 15. These are the adults of tomorrow, who understand that a circular economy is simply necessary as we face the growing threats of a rapidly changing climate, and they are taking charge of their future by being more responsible consumers than their preceding generations.

Students use a carnival float depicting Greta Thunberg during a strike from school to demand action on climate change in Duesseldorf (Reuters)

What’s more, with their actions they are also changing the present, and inspiring a growing group of adults to do the same. Besides the many individuals joining the demonstrations, a number of nonprofit associations, trade unions and business associations have also announced their support to the movement. For instance, the newly created Scientist4Future association has collected over 23.000 support signatures from scientists in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. “The concerns of the young protesters are justified”, it said in a recent statement. And on March 14, the day before the global event, the European Parliament accepted a Commission proposal to adopt a net zero carbon emission strategy, raise the emission targets for 2030, and achieve climate neutrality by 2050.

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about the author
Livia Formisani