How youth are making a difference worldwide and in Canada
Apr 16, 2019
By Zachary Bourque
In August of 2018, Greta Thunberg started the first school strike for climate outside of the Swedish parliament building. The 16-year old climate activist strongly believes that the voice of future generations should be heard, and that the time for climate action is now. Rather than spending time in the public-school system, learning about climate change or studying to become a climate scientist, Greta understands that the solutions to solving climate change have already been known for quite some time.
In November of the same year, Greta spoke at TEDxStockholm, where her internet presence was made known to the world. The next month, she addressed the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Katowice, Poland (COP24) and spoke at the World Economic Forum in January of 2019, she was also nominated for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize. Among these, and many other achievements, her greatest triumph yet would be the action she invoked in students around the globe. The first School strike for climate (also known as Fridays for Future, Youth for Climate) was held during November of last year, mostly on Fridays, worldwide. These movements were directly inspired by Greta’s own strike in the same year. These strikes have been ongoing since then, and there has been a recorded 1 400 000 students to take part during the 15th March, 2019 strike, in at least 2000 different cities worldwide.
On March 1, 2019, 150 students from the global coordination group of the climate strikes issued an open letter in The Guardian, saying:
We, the young, are deeply concerned about our future. […] We are the voiceless future of humanity. We will no longer accept this injustice. […] We finally need to treat the climate crisis as a crisis. It is the biggest threat in human history and we will not accept the world's decision-makers' inaction that threatens our entire civilisation. […] Climate change is already happening. People did die, are dying and will die because of it, but we can and will stop this madness. […] United we will rise until we see climate justice. We demand the world's decision-makers take responsibility and solve this crisis. You have failed us in the past. If you continue failing us in the future, we, the young people, will make change happen by ourselves. The youth of this world has started to move and we will not rest again.
6th grader Sophia Mathur of Sudbury, Ontario, was the sole participant of the first climate strike in Canada, in early November of 2018. The next strike, led in Vancouver, British Colombia saw 50 participants. Since then, strikes have occurred in January in Waterloo, Ontario (30 participants), Montreal, Québec City, Toronto, and Kelowna, British Colombia (150 000+ participants).
The strikes have had some resistance from politicians and school staff, however. Prime Minister Theresa May of the United Kingdom criticized the events for wasting teaching time, while Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for “more learning and less activism” in response of the strikes. Schools around the world also threatened participants to be marked as cutting class if they had not received permission to attend the strikes from the school or their parents.
Not all politicians were so quick to condemn the young activists, however. UN General Secretary António Guterres embraced the strikers, admitting that his generation has failed to respond properly to the dramatic challenge of climate challenge, and that this is deeply felt by young people.
At The Gaia Project, we are excited to see younger generations getting involved in the fight against climate change. We have always believed that young students, now activists, have a powerful voice and even more powerful role to play in this unprecedented point in human history. We hope that you reading this (teachers, parents, role models) understand the important role you play in developing our next generations’ ability to change the world for the better. Show the youth in your life the story of a 16-year old Swedish girl that is changing the world.
Watch Greta Thunberg talk at TEDxStockholm here. https://www.ted.com/talks/greta_thunberg_the_disarming_case_to_act_right_now_on_climate?language=en
About the author:
Zachary Bourque has been with The Gaia Project since 2019 and is a Program Delivery Officer. He holds a Bachelors of Science in Environmental and Natural Resource management and a Masters degree in Environmental Management from UNB.
Click here to learn more about Zachary.
2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference. (2019, March 31). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2018_United_Nations_Climate_Change_Conference
Borunda, A. (2019, March 15). Kids striking against climate change: ‘We’re fighting for our lives’. Retrieved from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/03/kids-climate-march-strikes-around-the-world-fridaysforfuture/
Greta Thunberg. (2019, April 01). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greta_Thunberg
Greta Thunberg: The Swedish teen inspiring climate strikes. (2019, February 14). Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-europe-47231271/greta-thunberg-the-swedish-teen-inspiring-climate-strikes
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School strike for climate. (2019, March 31). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/School_strike_for_climate
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Zhou, N., Ellis-Petersen, H., Glenza, J., Evans, A., Guterres, A., Holden, E., . . . Cox, L. (2019, March 15). Climate strikes held around the world – as it happened. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/live/2019/mar/15/climate-strikes-2019-live-latest-climate-change-global-warming