“This is the moonshot, the civil rights movement of our generation.” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on our next steps toward fighting climate change.
LIKE DUST, I’LL RISE: STUDENTS DEMANDING CHANGE
“You are never too small to make a difference” Greta Thunberg, 15.
Inspired by Parkland student protests, 15-year-old Greta Thunberg is a climate crusading Swedish schoolgirl. She is now famous the world over for her environmental activism efforts. Thunberg started cutting class on Fridays to sit outside the Swedish parliament with the aim of inspiring world leaders to take action on the Paris agreement. This inspired youth around the world to take action too. From Australia to Canada, thousands of young students were moved to strike from school in order to urge politicians to take action on the climate emergency ahead of COP24 (the United Nations Climate Change Conference that took place this month in Poland).
Their message? Stop jeopardising our future. Treat this crisis like a crisis. Start taking action. Homemade cardboard signs held messages like “only dinosaurs deny climate change”, “procrastinating is our job, not yours”, “why should we go to school if you won’t listen to the educated” and “beware radical student activist”. Students as young as 11 spoke out confidently and critically against the older generations in power:
“Why should we go to school if there is going to be no future? The climate crisis is solvable, yet some adults are jeopardizing our future by blocking real action. They are not listening to experts nor cooperating. They are behaving like bullies. Because of their bad behaviour, they would unleash massive suffering on people and animals.” Sophia Mathur, 11, Canada.
The young age of the activists proved itself as a powerful tool - a tool of hopeful and righteous rebellion against their political leaders’ paralysis.
AN INFLUENTIAL DECLARATION OF REBELLION
Skipping school to protest inadequate policies is one thing. Speaking at the UN climate summit in Katowice, Poland (where almost 200 nations are working to turn the vision of tackling climate change agreed in Paris in 2015 into action), is another. Greta Thunberg went to COP24 to lend her fresh eyes to the talks by meeting with Secretary General António Guterres. Her statements were broadcast in news outlets all over the world throughout the convention, heralded as important truths world leaders needed to hear:
“You only speak of green eternal economic growth because you are too scared of being unpopular. You are not mature enough to tell us like it is. But I don’t care about being popular. I care about climate justice and a living planet. Our civilization is being sacrificed for a very small amount of people to continue making enormous amounts of money. You say you love your children above all else and yet you are stealing their future. If solutions in this system are so impossible to find, then maybe we should change the system itself… We are running out of excuses and we have run out of time. The real power belongs to the people.” Greta Thunberg, 15.
The 15-year-old likens this political inaction to someone who is dying and not going getting medical treatment because there might be a magic pill in the future. Having experienced first hand the evident lack of political will of governments to act seriously, Thunberg also added bluntly that our leaders have been behaving like irresponsible children:
“I expected it to be more action and less talking — it’s mostly just small-talking. This is an amazing opportunity. But, if it continues the way it is now, we are never going to achieve anything…”
TIME magazine announced 2018’s 25 most influential teens, and Thunberg’s efforts earned her a place on the list.
This establishes climate activism firmly in the mainstream. It also showcases the power of youth voices in global political policy. These students all recognise something that many adult global leaders refuse to accept - we’re long past the time for discussion when it comes to climate.
For those not taking to the streets, ‘living greener’ trends are set to seriously preoccupy behaviours and attitudes in 2019. More and more informed young people who recognise the impact their consumption has on the planet are choosing live more purposefully - we see it already, for example, in the rise in veganism (and flexitarianism), revolutions against single-use plastic, and the embrace of climate conscious minimalism over mindless materialism.
Young people recognise the impact of their collective action and have taken to pleading the case because, in no uncertain terms, we’ve reached a state of drastic emergency. As Naomi Klein puts it; “...climate change isn’t an “issue” to add to the list of things to worry about, next to health care and taxes. It is a civilizational wake-up call. A powerful message - spoken in the language of fires, floods, droughts, and extinctions - telling us that we need an entirely new economic model and a new way of sharing this planet. Telling us that we need to evolve.”
Youth are taking charge because they can see first hand how drastically previous generations have failed them. There’s absolutely no room to ignore or delay environmental action; it is a moral duty. This is not a rebellion you can opt out of.