GP Insights # 47, 26 May 2019
On 24 May 2019, students from over 1600 cities walked out of school to protest Climate Change and demonstrate the need for urgent action. What started in Europe in February, has evolved into a massive student movement, these students, many of them who were too young to vote, took to the streets this week across the European Union to demand more stringent action against global warming as the 28-nation bloc elects a new parliament.
Aside from Europe, students from various parts of the world, from over 110 countries, starting from Australia, New Zealand, with Asian nations, Afghanistan, Thailand, Japan and India, joined the action calling on politicians and businesses to take urgent action to slow global warming. The protesting students have vowed to continue boycotting classes on Fridays until their country adheres to the Paris Climate Agreement. The movement has gained traction and has become a massive social media phenomenon.
What is the background?
It started with Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg, who protested in front of the Swedish parliament in 2018 and refused to get back to classes till the politicians took action. With a sign 'school strikes' against climate change, she was 15 years old then. In February 2019, taking from her solo protests, various movements across Europe, the US and Australia were observed, known as Fridays for Future or School Strike for Climate. The last coordinated international protest took place on 15 March, with an estimated 1.6 million students from 125 countries walking out of school.
In 2018, global carbon emissions hit a record high, and a UN-backed panel on climate change warned that to stabilise the climate, emissions will have to be slashed over the next 12 years, in October. Earlier this May, a UN report warned that one million animal and plant species were now threatened with extinction. Hence, these protestors intend to encourage governments to take more responsible actions; for example, students blocked the central bank in Norway telling them to stop investing in companies that burn coal. They also demand that the government reform the national curriculum to include more material on climate change and climate awareness.
What does it mean?
This massive movement shows the possibilities of successful coordination. Australia has already begun debating the need for coal companies in their economy. Few countries in Europe have declared “National Climate Emergency.” These indicate that the student protests are being taken very seriously.
An open letter was published in Germany's Süddeutsche Zeitung on the eve of Friday's strike, Ms Thunberg and prominent German climate activist Luisa Neubauer, 22, 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. However, that only works if our action is understood as a call," they wrote. "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” it says. It would be interesting to observe the enthusiasm and the seriousness of the youngsters in taking the future on a path that they want