The March 15th Student Strikes will see young people stage a global protest in the first unified outcry of its kind for their generation.
Jaded by the lack of action in the face of climate chaos, students across the globe are planning on demonstrating against the political and economic self-interests of older generations, demanding that a concrete response be taken to stop their own futures from being sabotaged.
The international demonstration is planned for March 15th, but there has already been a wave of walkouts by school-goers. The movement is gaining traction under the banner #FridaysForFuture, and protests have been occurring at the end of every week.
Ireland is seeing rallies occurring in Dublin and Cork, while Brussels has been repeatedly inundated with thousands of climate protesters. Germany, Switzerland, France, and the UK have also seen mass demonstrations, while Australia, Japan, the United States, and many more have picked up their own banners. Thirty-thousand pupils from 50 different cities took to the streets on January 18th; supporters hope to dwarf that number in March.
The spark for this movement has been the Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who began stepping out of school in August to raise awareness for the unheard population of youths across the world – those who will inherit the disaster that our planet is descending into. After making an impassioned speech at the U.N., Greta has become the role-model of a disillusioned generation, and has given form to the concerns that face the teens and adolescents of today. She has spoken for action at a point when progress is, at best, sluggish. With the clock ticking – and only about a decade left to mitigate the worst of the impact – the time to act is now. As Greta says; “I want you to behave like our house is on fire. Because it is.”.
The issue of climate chaos may be a problem of age. People in their 50s and up will see the climate begin to shift – it’s happening now – but are unlikely to be around when the dilemma of resources, sea level rise, mass emigration and more begin to take a toll on the global living standards. For the generations of young people, however, these may be facets of everyday life, problems arising from lack of progress by policy makers currently in power.
Those in school now are feeling threatened; they understand that in a volatile and overpopulated world, they cannot have the quality of life many of us have enjoyed for decades. The youth are invested in learning about this new existential threat, while some older people are still denying that there is a problem at all. Further frustration comes from the disconnect between what is said and what is done; Greta acknowledged, at her speech in Davos, that parents love their children, and want the best for future generations; and yet every day that future is slipping further away and our actions are supporting that decline.
The school protests so far have been met with varying responses; support, befuddlement, and outright criticism. Divisions are occurring between parents and teachers – it is a difficult situation when one is in support and the other is not. National leaders have also given their two cents, with some, such as Angela Merkel, encouraging a politically active youth, whilst others, such as Theresa May, scolding the English pupils who strike; not missing a beat, Greta replied on Twitter “British PM says that the children on school strike are ‘wasting lesson time.’ That may well be the case, but then again, political leaders have wasted 30 yrs of inaction”.
Hearing Greta speak of disappointment and inaction, and seeing the response from her allies, it is hard not to share her distress. But it is also hopeful – knowing there are people ready to fight to protect their future and their world, a clear voice among the political pinball of compromise. She doesn’t speak for herself but for an honest cause, borne from a terrible foreboding.
The March 15th demonstration is a chance for the voiceless to take the international stage, and for the leaders of the world to listen to an audience who does not work towards a hidden agenda. The voice of reason is emerging from youth, and their compassion may help decision-makers to see past money and ignorance to concentrate on what matters; a living future world.
If we fail now, we fail every generation that will follow. Our house is on fire; and if we don’t address this, we are committing the children of today to a pyre that cannot be extinguished.