Kids protesting — cute, right? Not exactly.

A lot of media coverage surrounding the swell in youth climate protests over the past several years has been framed in this condescending way, as if young people are cosplaying activism, and the adults should be left to handle the policies. 

But if you actually listen to what young people are saying, you quickly realize that these “kids” are at the forefront of one of the most radically transformative social movements in modern history, informing the very policies that are needed to mitigate the climate crisis. 

The Fridays for Future movement, started by the activist Greta Thunberg, has been a magnet for this sort of activism. And now the school strikes popularized by Thunberg will be returning March 25, with millions of participants worldwide. 

The theme of the upcoming strike is #PeopleNotProfit, a slogan that has gained popularity over the past decade as people worldwide question the seemingly insatiable drive for economic growth that’s jeopardizing the global environment. 

In a statement, Fridays for Future organizers put the cause of the climate crisis in blunt terms.

“Colonizers and capitalists are at the core of every system of oppression that has caused the climate crisis, and decolonization, using the tool of climate reparations, is the best kind of climate action,” they wrote. “The richest capitalist 1% must be held responsible for their actions and willful ignorance. Their profit is our death. Their profit is our suffering.”

They also describe what it will take to overcome this system.

“Together with different sectors of society across the world, led by the most marginalized, let’s bring back the power to the people whose power has been stolen,” they wrote. “Together, let’s build a system and home where we prioritize #PeopleNotProfit.”

Global Citizen reached out to three youth organizers from different countries to find out what they’re thinking ahead of the strike in their particular contexts.  

Anjelica Foley, 18, Ireland 

What message do you want to send to the world?

We want to show the world that we are still here and that we cannot be ignored or overlooked. Climate change needs to be addressed and it cannot be continuously pushed to the bottom of the agenda. The narrative for this strike is #PeopleNotProfit, because at the moment world leaders around the world have their priorities in the wrong place. We need climate action and climate justice because climate change is affecting real people right now.

What brings you hope amid the escalating climate crisis?

In terms of what gives me hope, I’d have to say it’s the people around me and those in the climate movement who are unflinchingly resistant and resilient. It can get draining and sometimes depressing when you know how urgent this crisis is but nothing is being done, so it’s really the people around you who boost morale and give you hope.

What does the government of Ireland need to do to fulfill its climate pledges?

In my opinion, the government of Ireland needs to start by treating the climate crisis as what it actually is, an emergency. It was declared a climate emergency yet there are still plans to build new gas fired power plants in the country. We need to take meaningful action now and leave fossil fuels where they belong: in the past and in the ground.

Abidur Rahman, 20, Bangladesh

Image: Abidur Rahman

What message do you want to send to the world?

The message we have has been the same throughout — to everyone this greed, this stupidity, this incompetence of the leaders are ruining all of our lives now and our future. We must hold their feet to the fire on the promises they made to protect the climate. People shouldn’t lose their lives, their livelihood, for the governments’ and companies’ incompetence. Join us in saying, “People over profit.”

What brings you hope amid the escalating climate crisis?

People — what they can do if they have the knowledge and the urgency — bring me hope. This community of activists and all the frontiers and smart people trying to solve the climate crisis brings me hope.

What does the government of Bangladesh need to do to fulfill its climate pledges?

The government of Bangladesh needs to control corruption and stop the profit-hungry, corrupt businesses from ruining people's lives. The government needs to be less short-sighted with things like [Phase 2 of the] Matarbari power plant … and plan for a long-term, safe, and sustainable future. 

Jon Bonifacio, 24, Philippines

Image: Jon Bonifacio

What message do you want to send to the world with the upcoming strike?

The climate crisis is here and now, and it is essential that the Global North delivers its promise to provide adequate climate finance to the most affected peoples and areas as soon as possible, in recognition of the historic injustice brought upon us in part by the massive carbon emissions of countries in the Global North.

Up until this point, climate finance has mostly come in the form of loans, which has driven countries into debt crises instead of helping them. This needs to change. With this Global Climate Strike, activists from the Global South and our allies in the Global North will continue to put pressure on world leaders to act now, pay up, and genuinely put people and planet first, not profit.

What brings you hope amid the escalating climate crisis?

More and more youth, and greater sections of the public in general, are beginning to understand the need to struggle against the climate crisis here in the Philippines. On top of experiencing worsening climate impacts firsthand, different sectors of Philippine society are also becoming more aware of the issue through the work of civil society organizations in particular. While there is still a long way to go, I am hopeful that these efforts will snowball into the large-scale collective action necessary to address the climate crisis at its roots.

What does the government of the Philippines need to do to fulfill its climate pledges?

We're having our national elections this May, and it's a critical opportunity to push for a leadership that will genuinely prioritize climate action and climate justice. Youth climate activists are joining forces to raise the discourse on climate change in this election cycle — unfortunately, it's not talked about as much as it should be. While taking steps to ensure that our NDCs [nationally determined contributions] are achieved (and in this process, strengthen calls for climate finance from the Global North), issues like adaptation also need to be addressed as this is a very urgent concern for a country that is regularly hit by devastating typhoons.

In the interest of climate and social justice, Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines (YACAP), alongside other climate and environment advocates, is opposing what is known as the Marcos-Duterte tandem: the son of our former dictator/president Marcos and the daughter of our current strongman president Duterte who are running for president and vice president, respectively.

Global Citizen Asks

Defend the Planet

Fridays for Future Activists Share Their Hopes Ahead of the Global Climate Strike

By Joe McCarthy