Climate Change Protest

Young People Around The World Skip School in Climate Change Protests

Usually when we think of students skipping school we imagine they are up to no good, as teenagers are prone to getting themselves into all sorts of trouble. However, a massive global protest today shows that young people are organized, concerned, and focused on perhaps the greatest responsibility of all, which is our species’ obligation to ensure a habitable global environment for generations to come. For these students, many of whom are followers of Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, climate change is an issue requiring immediate action, as they recognize their generation is likely to experience the most devastating impacts of the phenomenon of anyone living today.

The protests began early in the morning on Friday, September 20th, when instead of heading to school students in several countries took to the streets, marching and carrying signs. In Australia, 100,000 students protested in Melbourne, in an event which organizers described as the largest climate action in the history of the country and which shut down public transportation organizers. In Sydney, demonstrators gathered in a popular public park called the Domain, and carried signs with phrases like “You shall not pollute the land in which you live,” “You’ll die of old age / I’ll die of climate change,” and “We can’t drink oil / We can’t breathe money.” Australia’s Prime Minister described these protests as just a distraction, adding that he felt students would learn more in school than they would protesting.

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In the Philippines, protesters blocked the entrance to a Shell Oil refinery, and in China, the world’s largest contributor to climate change, no protests occurred as they were not authorized by the government. Demonstrators protested in Kenya, Poland, and Berlin, where one protestor carried a sign reading “Make the World Greta Again,” a clear reference to Donald Trump’s infamous campaign slogan and the aforementioned world-famous climate activist. Several cities in Britain saw protests, with the largest being in London, where students justified their absence from school by arguing that soon there may be no school to go to due to the magnitude of the threat. 

Given the degree of anger and concern surrounding the topic, demonstrators are unlikely to be placated no matter what world leaders say

In New Delhi, a city well-known for having tremendous problems with air pollution, children gathered around a government building and chanted “I want to breathe clean.” And in Mumbai, the rain did not deter child protestors, who wore oversized coats while demonstrating.

Despite lacking the authority held by other generations, children have been proactive in advocating for serious action to be taken on climate change, and are often at the center of debates about how to handle the crisis, whether explicitly or implicitly. Having grown up using the internet as a primary platform of socialization, young people have a unique ability to quickly and effectively organize, with geographical barriers presenting only a minor hurdle in their efforts. And while children’s concerns are often dismissed or imagined as exaggerated or unrealistic, young peoples’ understanding of climate change and its impacts follows from the strong global scientific consensus that climate change is real, caused entirely by human activity, that we are already experiencing the effects of it, and that the impacts of climate change range from devastating to apocalyptic depending on what action we take in response to it.

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The protests are being held two days in advance of a meeting of world leaders at the U.N. called the Climate Action Summit during which world leaders are scheduled to present their plans for reducing carbon emissions and taking other actions on climate change. Given the degree of anger and concern surrounding the topic, demonstrators are unlikely to be placated no matter what these leaders say, though the historic protests being held today are sure to come up in conversation. 

While this is certainly not the first time young people have organized in protest for a political cause, the protests being held today around the world are unique in their scope and ambition. Climate change is a problem that affects all young people, irrespective of their country of origin or economic class, though it affects lower-class people, who did the least to contribute to the problem, more severely than upper-class people. As such, the primacy of climate change as a political concern unites an entire generation of young people, as evidenced by today’s historic number of protestors. Though the effects of today’s protests are as of yet unclear, as Generation Z grows up and climate change continues to destroy communities around the world, the political pressure to take drastic action is sure to ramp up.

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