It started in front of the Swedish Parliament, on the 20th of August – a regular school day. Greta sat with her painted sign and some homemade flyers. This was the first school strike ever. From then on, Fridays wouldn’t be regular school days any longer. The rest of us, and many more alongside us, picked it up in Australia, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, New Zealand, Uganda. Today the climate strike will take place all around the world.
This movement had to happen, we didn’t have a choice. We knew there was a climate crisis. Not just because forests in Sweden or in the United States had been on fire; because of alternating floods and drought in Germany and Australia; because of the collapse of iconic alpine faces, because of the melting permafrost, etc. We knew because everything we read and watched screamed out to us that something was very wrong.
That first day of refusing to go to school was spent alone, but since then, a movement of climate strikers has swept the globe. Today young people in more than 100 countries will walk out of class to demand action on the greatest threat humankind has ever faced.
We are uniting behind the science
These strikes are happening today – from Washington DC to Moscow, Tromso to Invercargill, Beirut to Jerusalem, and Shanghai to Mumbai – because politicians have failed us. We’ve seen years of negotiations, pathetic deals on climate change, fossil fuel companies being given free rein to carve open our lands, drill beneath our soils and burn away our futures for their profit. We’ve seen fracking, deep sea drilling and coal mining continue. Politicians have known the truth about climate change and they’ve willingly handed over our future to profiteers whose search for quick cash threatens our very existence.
This movement had to happen, we didn’t have a choice. Last year’s UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Special Report on Global Warming could not have been clearer about the extreme dangers of going beyond 1.5°C of global warming. To have any chance of avoiding that extreme danger emissions must drop extremely rapidly – so that by the time we will be in our mid- and late twenties we are living in a transformed world.
The students who are striking in cities, towns and villages all around the world today are uniting behind the science. We are only asking that our leaders do the same.
Our lives are being compromised before we are born
If those in power today don’t act, it will be our generation who will live through their failure. Those who are under twenty now could be around to see the year 2080, and face the prospect of a world which has warmed by up to 4 degrees. The effects of such warming would be utterly devastating. Rivers would flood, storms would wreak havoc on coastal communities, and coral reefs would be eliminated. Melting polar ice caps would lead to dramatically higher sea levels, flooding coastal areas. Places on Earth will become uninhabitable.
Scientists have also shown us that burning fossil fuels is “the world’s most significant threat to children’s health.” Nine out of every ten children around the world are already breathing dangerous air. Our lives are being compromised before we are even born. Toxic particles from exhaust fumes pass through the lungs of pregnant women and accumulate in the placenta. The risk of premature birth, low-birth weight and cognitive dysfunction this causes is a public health catastrophe. Pollution from diesel vehicles is stunting the growth of our lungs, leaving us damaged for life. Toxic air from burning fossil fuels is choking not only our lungs – but our hopes and dreams.