Hundreds of thousands of youth worldwide are participating in a school strike, demanding action on climate change, heeding a call by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg to hold demonstrations across the world.
The “School Strike for Climate” movement was first started by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, who began her strike outside the country’s parliament in Stockholm in August 2018 and has said that she will continue to strike until Sweden is aligned with the goals of the Paris Agreement. Since then, her singular action has spread into an international climate movement, organized by young people around the world. This strike followed the last co-ordinated event on March 15, which saw over 1.6 million people across 133 countries turn out at demonstrations according to organizers. Australia just had its hottest summer on record and climate change is seen as the cause of the increasing frequency and severity of droughts, heat waves, floods and the melting of glaciers around the world.
“I should be at school, revising for my French baccalaureat – but I’d rather be here, for my future,” said Jules, 17, who only wanted to give his first name. He and five friends decided to skip school despite end-of-year exams creeping up, to participate in what is thought to have been one of the biggest global climate actions by young people yet, mobilising hundreds of thousands. Organisers expect strikes and demonstrations to happen in more than 1,600 places in 110 countries – from New Zealand to Syria and Venezuela.
Forty weeks ago, the Swedish climate activist started skipping school every Friday to protest climate change outside Stockholm’s parliament, inspiring a large global strike on March 15, in which an estimated 1.5 million young people took part. “I think politicians around the world think the movement will fade and that people will stop striking, especially with the summer break coming up,” said Laure Miro, 16, striking for the second time in Paris.
An invitation to older generations
In an open letter published in Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung on the eve of Friday’s strike, Ms Thunberg called on older generations to join the action in September. “This is a task for all humanity. We young people can contribute to a bigger fight, and that can make a big difference. “This is our invitation. On Friday, 20 September, we will start an action week for the climate with a worldwide strike. We ask you to join us… Join in the day with your neighbours, colleagues, friends and families to hear our voices and make this a turning point in history.”
In Barcelona, more than 200 people – from school pupils to university students and families with young children – braved the rain, shouting slogans such as “Change the system, not the climate” and “No to pollution”. Many waved homemade banners written in English, and the march ended outside city hall where a timer with red sand was placed to symbolise how time is running out to act on the “climate emergency” and speakers urged politicians to step up.