Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager who absented herself from school last year in order to demonstrate about climate change outside the Swedish parliament, is seeing her idea take off across the world.
According to Jonathan Watts of MSN news:
“Around the world, so many student strikes are now taking place or planned. A supporter on Twitter has compiled a Google map sowing all the announced locations, stretching from Abuja and Boogolubi to Sacramento and Medellin. The most recent version shows recent clusters of activity in the UK and northern Europe.
In reply, people on Twitter have written, “I’ve been dreaming of this”, “Power to the children,”beautiful” and simply “hope”.
Australia was one of the first countries to mobilise. Last November an estimated 15,000 students went on strike. Last Friday, students lobbied out side the offices of the opposition party; on March 1st, they plan to lobby outside the Federal Treasurer’s office, joining the global strike two weeks’ later. They are demanding immediate political action to stop the Adani coalmine in Queensland and a switch from fossil fuels to 100% renewable energy. Three students aged 11, 14 and 14 spoke to the leader of the opposition in the federal parliament. “It’s a good sign he is willing to meet,” they said. “The Prime Minister condemned the strike”.
In Belgium, there have been strikes by thousands of students for four consecutive weeks, with one now famous placard: “I’ll do my homework when you do yours!” More than 3,000 scientists in Belgium are giving their backing to the strike.
Switzerland has seen some of the greatest action. 23,000 joined the strike on 21 January, followed by 65,000 on 2nd February. All are preparing for a global demonstration on 15th March. They want the government to declare an immediate climate state of emergency, implement policies for zero carbon by 2030, without geo-engineering, and to move away from the current economic system.
In Germany, activists said that there are mobilisations every week, with 20,000 students striking in 50 cities last week.
The planned global strike on 15th March is expected to be the biggest yet, with mobilisations in 150 cities. Some university students have joined the schoolchildren in Germany and one of them, 22-year old Luisa Neubauer, said “What we need our politicians and our government to understand is that everything they do today comes at a price for future generations. We are not doing this for fun but because we don’t have a choice.”
There has, of course, been a backlash to all of this. I had an email from somebody in Australia who suggested that children were being “used” to “progress an argument”, though the writer did acknowledge that weather in Australia this year has been “heat, fires and floods – very devastating for the country – making the point about climate change very graphically.”
The UK Tory party has not been without its opposition to the childrens’ action, Andrea Leadsom amongst them tweeting “It’s called truancy, not a strike.” See also,
It has been heartening, therefore to read George Monbiot’s straight-talking piece in The Guardian and also on his website:
“Why older people must stand in solidarity with the youth climate strikes.
By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 15th February 2019
The Youth Strike 4 Climate gives me more hope than I have felt in 30 years of campaigning. Before this week, I believed it was all over. I thought, given the indifference and hostility of those who govern us, and the passivity of most of my generation, that climate breakdown and ecological collapse were inevitable. Now, for the first time in years, I think we can turn them around.
My generation and the generations that went before have failed you. We failed to grasp the basic premise of intergenerational justice: that you cannot apply discount rates to human life. In other words, the life of someone who has not been born will be of no less value than the life of someone who already exists. We have lived as if your lives had no importance, as if any resource we encountered was ours and ours alone to use as we wished, regardless of the impact on future generations. In doing so, we created a cannibal economy: we ate your future to satisfy our greed.
It is true that the people of my generation are not equally to blame. Broadly speaking, ours is a society of altruists governed by psychopaths. We have allowed a tiny number of phenomenally rich people, and the destructive politicians they fund, to trash our life support systems. While some carry more blame than others, our failure to challenge the oligarchs who are sacking the Earth and to overthrow their illegitimate power, is a collective failure. Together, we have bequeathed you a world that – without drastic and decisive action – may soon become uninhabitable.
Every day at home, we tell you that if you make a mess you should clear it up. We tell you that you should take responsibility for your own lives. But we have failed to apply these principles to ourselves. We walk away from the mess we have made, in the hope that you might clear it up.
Some of us did try. We sought to inspire our own generations to do what you are doing. But on the whole we were met with frowns and shrugs. For years, many people of my age denied there was a problem. They denied that climate breakdown was happening. They denied that extinction was happening. They denied that the world’s living systems were collapsing.
They denied all this because accepting it meant questioning everything they believed to be good. If the science was right, their car could not be right. If the science was right, their foreign holiday could not be right. Economic growth, rising consumption, the entire system they had been brought up to believe was right had to be wrong. It was easier to pretend that the science was wrong and their lives were right than to accept that the science was right and their lives were wrong.
A few years ago, something shifted. Instead of denying the science, I heard the same people say “OK, it’s real. But now it’s too late to do anything about it.” Between their denial and their despair, there was not one moment at which they said “It is real, so we must act.” Their despair was another form of denial; another way of persuading themselves that they could carry on as before. If there was no point in acting, they had no need to challenge their deepest beliefs. Because of the denial, the selfishness, the short-termism of my generation, this is now the last chance we have.
The disasters I feared my grandchildren would see in their old age are happening already: insect populations collapsing, mass extinction, wildfires, droughts, heat waves, floods. This is the world we have bequeathed to you. Yours is among the first of the unborn generations we failed to consider as our consumption rocketed.
But those of us who have long been engaged in this struggle will not abandon you. You have issued a challenge to which we must rise, and we will stand in solidarity with you. Though we are old and you are young, we will be led by you. We owe you that, at least.
By combining your determination and our experience, we can build a movement big enough to overthrow the life-denying system that has brought us to the brink of disaster – and beyond. Together, we must demand a different way, a life-giving system that defends the natural world on which we all depend. A system that honours you, our children, and values equally the lives of those who are not born. Together, we will build a movement that must – and will – become irresistible.”
Sad in a way – and ageist – that the Guardian editor changed his title to
“My generation trashed the planet. So I salute the children striking back”
And now the European Union is responding to Greta Thunberg’s campaign. The EC President, Jean-Claude Juncker, has announced that the EU should spend hundreds of billions of euros combating climate change during the next decade.
“In the next financial period from 2021 to 2027, every fourth euro spent within the EU budget will go towards action to mitigate climate change,” Juncker said of his proposal for the EU budget, which is typically 1 percent of the bloc’s economic output, or 1 trillion euros ($1.13 trillion) over seven years.”
Thunberg was in Brussels to join a seventh week of demonstrations by Belgian children skipping school to protest against global warming.
More than 10,000 students, some holding up banners saying “stop denying the earth is dying”, protested across Belgium on Thursday, including in Brussels and the western city of Ghent.
Story from Reuters.
Time magazine writes a piece about Greta Thunberg, calling her a “Next Generation Leader”;
There are also reports that she is being trolled by ultra-right activists in Germany.