Students are leading a worldwide climate strike on March 15. Grown-ups: take note
Greta Thunberg is launching the same kind of movement to fight climate change that the kids from Parkland, Florida, inspired against gun violence. And she’s aiming to do it on a global scale on March 15, asking students around the world to join a school strike to demand real solutions on global warming.
That sounds like it would be worth cutting class for.
Thunberg is a 16-year-old Swedish political activist who is leading a worldwide youth movement on climate change. In the last year alone, she gave a TEDx talk on climate change in Stockholm, stunned attendees at two sessions of a United Nations Climate Change Conference, demanded reductions in CO2 emissions at a European Commission conference, and spoke truth to power at the World Economic Forum in Davos. To further prove her point, while many government and business leaders traveled to Switzerland on private jets, she took a 32-hour train ride, as she has insisted that her family give up flying to reduce their carbon footprint.
Thunberg was described in The Nation as the “international climate-change counterpart” to New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who introduced the Green New Deal resolution in Congress along with Democratic Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey. The story calls Thunberg a “charismatic young woman whose social-media savvy, moral clarity, and undaunted truth-telling have inspired throngs of admirers to take to the streets for a better world and call out the politicians, propagandists, and CEOs who are standing in the way.”
On March 15, tens of thousands of high-school and middle-school students in more than 30 countries plan to skip school to demand that politicians treat the global climate crisis as the emergency it is. Shakespeare made the Ides of March famous with his soothsayer’s warning in Julius Caesar, but ancient Romans actually saw it as a day for settling debts. What bigger debt is there than the theft of a livable future?
Thirty countries? The total is up to almost 60, and there’s time for more students to join. The highest involvement has been in Europe and Australia, but U.S. students are catching up—students in 30 states have vowed to join the climate strike. More than 30,000 students stood with her at a January strike in Belgium, and officials in several countries are already giving students a pass for cutting class. It’s likely that “tens of thousands” of students will turn out to be a vast understatement.
Thunberg first learned about climate change when she was 8 years old and had trouble understanding why the subject wasn’t the most important issue for everyone. She started her recent quest when she began camping out outside the Swedish Parliament, accusing lawmakers of failing to uphold commitments to reduce carbon emissions that were agreed to under the Paris climate accord. She missed classes for three weeks, attracting more and more attention to her cause until she settled on her Friday strike dates. From there, she stunned attendees in Davos by telling them that “our house is on fire.” As described in a story on Vox:
“I don’t want your hope,” she said in her Davos speech. “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.”
Thunberg’s trademark is her hand-lettered sign with the words Skolstrejk för klimatet (school strike for the climate). Although she isn’t yet a household name in the United States, in Europe, it’s another story. She travels from country to country, drawing huge crowds and inspiring students—many along with their families—to attend climate rallies every Friday. Her Facebook page has 266,000 likes. She has 236,000 followers on Twitter, and she often issues tweets in both English and Swedish with the hashtags #ClimateStrike, #Klimatstrejk, #FridaysForFuture, and #SchoolStrike4Future. She tweets and retweets action plans and news about climate science. FridaysForFuture lists events and lets interested parties register their own upcoming strikes. The U.S. contact email is USA@fridaysforfuture.org.
The best news is that Thunberg is getting adults to pay attention.