In three hundred cities from across the world on all continents over 1.4 million young students took to the streets this March 15th on the first ever global climate strike. Messages in more than 40 languages were loud and clear: world leaders and the generation who have benefitted the most at the cost of planetary health must act now to address the climate crisis and save our future.
"Be the change you want to see in the world"
Gandhi's aphorism on struggle and change is no better exemplified in the courage shown by teenager Greta Thunberg. The actions of this one person have inspired a climate movement that is taking many veteran campaigners by very pleasant surprise. It is a bottom-up movement bringing a generation to the streets.
"The governments failed to respond properly to the dramatic challenge of our climate crisis. Our generation, the least responsible for the acts of the polluters, will be the ones to see the most devastating impacts of climate change. World leaders are losing the window to act, but we are not gonna stand still watching their inertia." Greta Thunberg.
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Be the change; don't outsource it to others
The numbers of people taking to the streets are staggering and show that the generation of young people who will inherit the Earth are not going to take any more. It is now critical that each of us raise our own level of awareness and action in demanding change. We cannot sit back and outsource the responsibility of change onto others.
In Europe, hundreds of thousands of school strikes saw students leaving their classrooms and joining the marches. France alone gathered 195 thousand in more than 110 cities. Overall there are estimated to have been over 2000 marches in over 125 countries.
In India, more than 15 cities were involved in the strikes. In Colombia, around 2.5 thousand gathered in the streets of Bogotá whilst Cape Town reported 2000 and 1,000 in Hong Kong.
One climate striker, Vidit Baya, 17 years old from Udaipur, India, said: “In India, no one talks about climate change. You don’t see it on the news or in the papers or hear about it from our government. We want global leaders to declare a climate emergency. If we don’t act today, then we will have no tomorrow. " - Vidit Baya, 17, Udaipur, India.
Failed Politics, Worsening Climate
Despite years of talks, governments have lost many opportunities to commit to concrete action and the global emission are reaching now an inevitable level.
The most recent UN Environment report, released in Nairobi on Wednesday, estimates that winter temperatures at the North Pole are likely to rise by at least 3oC above pre-industrial levels by 2050. And that even if global emissions were to halt overnight, winter temperatures in the Arctic would still increase 4°C to 5°C by 2100 compared to the late 20th century.
Protests Will Continue
Over the coming months, strikes are set to continue across the globe, with organisers already planning the next ones.
When world leaders meet in September, it will be with the knowledge that they cannot prevaricate any longer on defining a swift, safe, and sustainable pathway away from energy derived from coal, oil and gas. This is not an issue for tomorrow for if we don't act today, we will literally be destroying tomorrow.