Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
The fifteenth of March, 2019, witnessed one of the world’s largest youth-led global movements for climate change in history. Overwhelming number of students,from around 112 countries, mass bunked schools and held protests calling for adoption of robust and effective climate change policies and compliance with theobligationsunderthe Paris Agreement (2016) by their respective governments. The source and inspiration of these demonstrations is a sixteen year-old Swedish girl, Greta Thunberg, who started her fight for climate justice and preservation on 20 August 2018, picketing in front of the Swedish Parliament every Friday.
16 year-old Swedish climate activist, Greta Thunberg, who protested outside the Swedish parliament in Stockholm every Friday urging the Swedish Government to take action on climate change.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
‘The March of Our Lives’ movementled by the students in Parkland, Floridaprotestingfor stricter gun control laws in the United States, served as an inspiration for Thunberg. The struggle of the young girl gained support from the people and the attention of the Swedish media since the beginning of her endeavor. Her strong message resonated with the masses and caught the interest of the leaders. Her determination, courage and blatant criticism of the existing world system and leaders,with regard to global environment,has been recognized and it inspired the dormant public to rise and voice their opinions and demands to the state apparatus. In the past few months, Greta Thunberg has been to different global platforms expressing the urgency for action by the states and other actors for the preservation of planet Earth. She started the ‘Fridays For Future’ and the ‘Climate Strike’ movements which have swiftly gained popularity. At the United Nations Climate Change COP24 Conference, held in December 2018 in Poland, Thunberg strongly criticized the representatives stating, “…You are not mature enough to tell it how it is. Even that burden you leave to us children…”
According to the report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in October 2018, climate change would lead to global catastrophic impacts, such as rising sea-level and deterioration of coral reefs, even if the states are able to limit global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius. Thunberg highlighted the fact that a crisis cannot be solved unless it is recognized and treated as a crisis. On other platforms Thunberg restated that she needs the leaders to panic and feel the fear she feelssince only then would effective policies be adopted and implemented.
This initiative by Thunberg has motivated and stirred students across the globe, particularly young girls and women, who organized marches and protests to intensify pressure on the governments. Massive rallies were orchestrated in countries like Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, India and Australia among others. Seventeen year-old Anuna De Wever along with Kyra Gantois initiated the protests in Germany by uploading a video on social media calling out to the masses. Although initially barely 3000 people assembled,over the course of time,the number increased to 30,000 people. In the United States, Isra Hirsi, Haven Coleman and Alexandria Villasenor came together to organize the strike in around hundred cities. Numerous cities in India also conducted marches with students from over 400 schools joining the protests.Similar rallies were conducted in Korea, South Africa and Czech Republic as well.
The movement has been a success to the extent that the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker has pledged to spend one trillion Euros in order to control climate change between 2021 and 2027. However, the struggle continues both for Greta and the world to make individual states comply with the Paris Agreement and work towards protecting the planet. This is an overwhelming challenge as the United States, under President Donald Trump, has decided to withdraw from the Paris Accord. Furthermore, in France, although massive marches were held, its influence over the government and the amount of media coverage is minuscule as compared to other movements like the ‘Yellow Vest’ movement.
There have also been instances of different governments criticizing and sidelining the movement on social media. British Prime Minister Theresa May referred to the movement as ‘a waste of time’ to which Thunberg sharply replied tweeting “That may well be the case. But then again, political leaders have wasted thirty years of inaction. And that is slightly worse.” Even Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison expressed discontent with students from 200 schools skipping classes to support the movement.
Greta Thunberg’s struggle still has a long way to go before it can achieve its objective. Nonetheless, this global wave advocating awareness and action against climate change marks a turning point for the world. The demand for active and meaningful action with regard to climate change has been simmering for decades now, nevertheless, actualization and implementation of effective policies has largely remained futile. Today, the world is witnessing millions of children fighting for the security of their future, ensuring that their voices echo in the minds of the international community and leaders. The young and determined torch-bearer of this struggle continues her endeavor and has proved that the world can be changed for the better if one has the will and valor to stand for the cause.
(Keywords: Climate change, protest, students)
Ishita Singh is a first year student of the M.A. International Studies Programme Batch of 18-20 at the Symbiosis School of International Studies, Pune.