What started with one Swedish high school student’s weekly protest against climate inaction has going global, with hundreds of thousands of students around the world joining similar protests in recent weeks, according to Buzzfeed News.
Greta Thunberg's “School Climate March,” in which she cuts class on Fridays to protest in front of the Swedish parliament in Stockholm, has struck a chord with young people who are tired of waiting for governments to prioritize environmental sustainability. Her protests have especially resonated with girls, who are marching out of classrooms and onto the streets with posters and chants calling for stronger climate change policies, according to Buzzfeed.
Now student activists in the US who were involved in the “March for Our Lives” protests against gun violence are looking to transfer the organizing knowledge they gained to this global movement.
“There aren’t very many spaces that I can be in charge of, and what I’m going to say is going to be heard,” Jamie Margolin, the 17-year-old founder and executive director of Zero Hour, a climate action movement, told Buzzfeed about her reasons for joining the protests.
In recent weeks, Thunberg has become a kind of moral celebrity for her unflinching critique of governments and companies that are contributing to climate change.
Although 195 countries have signed the Paris climate agreement, which seeks to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperature levels, few countries are actually living up to the pact’s commitments.
A young woman shouts slogans as she marches with thousands of others during a climate change protest in Brussels, Jan. 24, 2019.
At the World Economic Forum on Jan. 23, Thunberg gave a speech challenging the people in the room to do more to cut global emissions.
“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,” she said.
“I want you to feel the fear I fear every day. And the 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 is on fire. Because it is,” she urged.
The high school student’s bold activism has inspired other students throughout Europe to join her efforts.
In Belgium, more than 12,000 students joined a protest last month outside the Hague, the UN’s international court of justice, calling for climate action.
Similar mass protests have occurred in Germany and youth activists from other countries have pledged to join Thunberg’s cause as well.
Thousands of young people march to the European Parliament in Brussels to demand action on climate change.— ABC News (@ABC) January 19, 2019
Many of the marchers were students who skipped school in order to attend. https://t.co/lf3hhFBtuqpic.twitter.com/U02GFROG2P
The protest will likely reach the US on March 15, when an international day of action is planned, according to Buzzfeed.
Other youth-led protest movements in the US are already changing the dialogue around government action on climate change. For example, the Sunrise Movement rapidly inspired politicians to support their call for a Green New Deal — an ambitious plan to phase out fossil fuels by 2030 — through sit-ins and other forms of protests in the House of Representatives.
As climate change intensifies around the world, calls to transition to renewable energy will only grow louder.
Just stepped off the train and into a Climate March in Lucerne, Switzerland led by school students and teachers. 🙌🏻🙌🏻🙌🏻— Emily Calandrelli (@TheSpaceGal) January 18, 2019
"Why should we go to school if you don't listen to the educated." 👈🏼👈🏼👈🏼 pic.twitter.com/ci7A0wjjU0
“We really need to do something — the younger generation understand it more,” Anuna De Wever, a 17-year old climate activist in Belgium told BuzzFeed News.
“This system is just wrong,” she added. “It discriminates against people. We’re not taking care of this planet.”