Today, most scientists agree that climate change will have a major and unpredictable impact on the world. Despite the scientific consensus, politicians have not taken necessary measures to prevent them or, worse, some have refused to acknowledge the problem. Why should we take responsibility for our future, if adults fail to take any for the present? Young people are becoming increasingly aware of the environmental crisis and what it means for them. They understand the need for urgent political action. Friday 15th March, the global strike made a huge and unprecedented leap for the climate movement.
On 20 August 2018, Greta Thunberg, a Swedish student, sat down outside Sweden’s Parliament. Her poster read “School strike for the climate”. She wanted a reduction in carbon emissions and would keep skipping school until the government reacted. Her story launched a widespread movement for climate change. What started as an initiative of a single student in Sweden has grown quickly. Today, up to 70,000 school children in 270 towns and cities worldwide take part in protests each week instead of attending classes. They are demanding action by politicians to prevent further climate change. In Belgium, two strikes at the end of 2018, of which EEB2’s students had organized one, led to the emergence of the “Youth Climate for Brussels”. Their weekly marches have gathered as much as 35,000 students, caused the resignation of the Minister of Environment and made numerous headlines. Belgian students have raised their voices, and people heard them.
Science is clear, there is a more than 95% probability that human activities over the past 50 years have been the cause of global warming. In 2017, the earth’s surface temperature was around 0.84°C warmer than the 20th century average. While this may seem insignificant, a rise below 2°C could already cause a fast decline in Artic sea ice. Sea levels rising would lead to many weather-related catastrophes including storms, floods and droughts. Individual regions will vary, some becoming wetter and others drier. As a result, food shortages will emerge in a constantly increasing population. Starvation, amongst other factors, could easily escalate to conflict. Serious consequences on health, employment and low-income urban areas are also foreseen. At that point, deaths will be inevitable.
School and parents could facilitate our actions. For starters, they should take pride. Their education created thoughtful, outspoken teenagers that are fighting for a meaningful matter. Moreover, schools could back their students by asking teachers to provide work for students attending the strike. In other words, help them to catch up for their absence and reassure their parents. It would emphasize their support and encourage the movement.
The impacts of climate change are beyond us. This is our chance to fight for our future. We shape the world through collective action, but we need individual will. Change is a response to a reaction, the bigger the reaction, the bigger the response. Each step leads, on a long road, to political intervention. When the whole world invests, the journey becomes shorter.