Hundreds of thousands of students and workers left their schools, colleges and offices and marched along city streets around the globe to demand that world leaders take urgent action to avert an environmental catastrophe. It will culminate in New York when Ms. Thunberg, who has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, will spearhead a rally at the United Nations headquarters, where heads of government are due to gather for a climate summit next week.
“This is about my future, not only my future, but the future of my entire generation and all the generations to come after ours,” said Tristan Vancleef, 16, among around 15,000 demonstrators who marched through the centre of Brussels. Banners at the Brussels march included “Cool kids save the hot planet”, “I won’t go to school until you make it cool” and “The warm earth destroys our cold beer”. Protesters are calling on governments to take immediate action to limit the harmful effects of man-made climate change.
“Our oceans are rising, so are we,” was a popular slogan on placards, including one carried by a student in school uniform in Melbourne and another by a girl wearing a facemask in Kolkata. Online retail giant Amazon.com Inc pledged on September 19 it would be net carbon neutral by 2040. Cutting emissions is a challenging goal for Amazon, which delivers 10 billion items a year and has a massive transport and data centre footprint. “We know we can do it and we know we have to do it,” Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos said. Environmental advocacy group Greenpeace USA welcomed the commitment, but a spokesman said the company lagged peers Google, Apple and Facebook in transparency around its renewable projects.
By mid-afternoon across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, crowds had gathered in many cities, including London, Paris, Brussels, Berlin, Warsaw, Stockholm, Helsinki, Beirut, Nairobi and Cape Town.
“We are skipping our lessons to teach you one,” read a placard carried by a student in London.
In Stockholm, crowds gathered outside the Swedish parliament, where Thunberg began her school strike protests. “We have to send a message to the politicians that the environment is more important than education,” said Mattis Johanssen, 18. Earlier, Danielle Porepilliasana, a Sydney high school student, had a blunt message for politicians such as Australian Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, who told parliament on Thursday that students should stay in class. “World leaders from everywhere are telling us that students need to be at school doing work,” she said, wearing anti-coal earrings. “I’d like to see them at their parliaments doing their jobs for once.”