A global movement touches down in Britain this Friday.
Thousands of British students will skip school on Feb. 15 to protest political inaction on climate change, after a wave of youth activism has swept through Belgium, Germany, and Sweden in the last few months.
Led by the UK Youth Climate Coalition, the Guardian reports that schools and universities in 30 towns and cities will take part.
The movement was first sparked when 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg decided to go on strike from school every Friday — and protest outside parliament in Stockholm instead.
Then on Jan. 23, Thunberg delivered a viral speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, slamming world leaders in attendance for negligence. It got the whole world talking.
“Adults keep saying we owe it to the young people to give them hope,” she said. “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 fear every day,” she added. “And then I want you to act. I want you to act as if you were in a crisis. I want you to act as if the house was on fire — because it is.”
Now, the Guardian reports that 70,000 schoolchildren are skipping school in protest at climate change in 270 towns and cities worldwide.
Students in Belgium are skipping school to protest for climate action. pic.twitter.com/KBTOyjSRCz— Global Citizen UK (@GlblCtznUK) January 29, 2019
In Belgium alone, at least 30,000 students joined the movement in January, and in the US, the same teenagers who founded the March for Our Lives protests are reportedly working towards a global day of action on March 15.
Now, the UK will now join the fray, with plans in place for Friday’s preliminary demonstration to build towards the global strike, too. The Independent reports that children as young as 5 years old will be leaving lessons to join the marches.
“The images of what Greta did and then the huge strikes by schoolchildren in other countries have been widely shared by young people on social media and have really inspired people,” Jake Woodier from the UK Youth Climate Coalition told the Guardian.
“Young people see what is happening, especially sinc e… we only have 12 years left to avoid catastrophic climate change,” Woodier added. “They realise that politicians are nowhere near where they need to be on this and want to do something to change that.”
The UK Youth Climate Coalition website provides a toolkit for how students can get involved in the protest, including calling on them to start conversations with parents and teachers to outline why young people care so much about this issue.
We are growing!!!!— YouthStrike4Climate (@Strike4Youth) February 9, 2019
*38* cities and towns across the UK striking with us on 15th February!!!!
Want to strike but not on the list yet? Get in touch - we can support you! https://t.co/jkUbyzscHA#YouthStrike4Climate#Youth4Climate#FridaysForFuture#ClimateJusticepic.twitter.com/CNvt7ODuJQ
It’s yet another example of youth-led activism spreading like wildfire around the globe — and how fast it can shape a news agenda that campaigners say lacks urgency.
In December 2018 direct action group Extinction Rebellion shut down the BBC headquarters in London to protest that exact point — and student activists have since grown tired from stiflingly deficient progress.
“It is important to remember that simply learning about it in school has not done enough,” 17-year-old Anna Taylor, one of the organisers for the event, told BBC Radio 4’s Today Show. “We have tried to learn about it in school and yet we are still heading towards an immense climate catastrophe which will end the life of loads of species on earth.”