Note—This is the third anniversary of the Global Strike for Future also called Student Strike for Climate inspired by the dynamic and laser-focused child climate activist Greta Thunberg. Today we look back at our blogpost celebrating the occasion.
Beware the Ides of March ye plutocrats, oligarchs, planet rapers, and thumb-twiddlers! The Children are marching on your gates around the world and they are plenty pissed off that you are stealing their future and dooming the Earth. And it all began with a simple act of defiance by one 15 year-old girl.
On August 20, 2018, Greta Thunberg, a ninth grade student, decided to not attend school until the 2018 Swedish general election on September 9 after a brutal summer of heat waves and wildfires in Sweden. Instead, she sat outside the Riksdag in Stockholm every day during school hours with a sign reading Skolstrejk för klimatet (school strike for the climate). Her demands were that the Swedish government reduce carbon emissions in accordance with the Paris Agreement. After the general elections, she continued to strike only on Fridays, as more students joined her and her cause gained worldwide attention.
Although Greta was a privileged child from a well-known family—her mother is Swedish opera singer Malena Ernman, her father is actor Svante Thunberg, and her grandfather is actor and director Olof Thunberg—she plunged into activism despite disabilities. She has been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD), and selective mutism, an anxiety disorder in which a person who is normally capable of speech cannot speak in specific situations or to specific people. Yet she has become an exceptional voice for her generation and has spoken eloquently before international gatherings of the high and the mighty.
Greta says that she was inspired by the self-organized teen activists of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, who organized the March for our Lives events in March 2018.Students in London were among those world-wide who joined the Friday climate strike movement.
As Greta’s story spread across Europe, so did student climate strikes that she inspired. Within weeks small actions were taking place across Europe. These ballooned from a handful of participants in the beginning to tens of thousands of young people were in the streets in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, Finland, Denmark, Japan, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States by January 2019 There were even actions in Third World countries like Uganda where such challenges to government authority can be dangerous.
Like Greta youth leaders of the spreading movement were steadfast against being absorbed, co-opted, or otherwise taken over by political parties, unions, existing radical groups, state operatives and even existing environmental organizations. They insisted on being in charge of their own agenda and being beholden to none.A massive Climate Strike action in Berlin on January 15, 2019
As the face of the burgeoning movement but not its leader, Greta was invited to speak at critical international forums.
In October, she and her family drove in an electric car to London, where she addressed the Declaration of Rebellion organized by Extinction Rebellion outside Parliament.
On November 24, she spoke at TEDxStockholm about realizing, when she was eight years old, that climate change existed and wondering why it was not headline news on every channel, as if there was a world war going on. She said she did not go to school to become a climate scientist, as some suggested, because the science was done and only denial, ignorance, and inaction was remaining. Speculating that her children and grandchildren would ask her generation why they had not taken action in 2018 when there was still time, she concluded with “we can’t change the world by playing by the rules, because the rules have to be changed.”
Greta addressed the COP24 United Nations climate change summit on December 4 and also spoke before the plenary assembly on December 12.
Perhaps most famously, Greta and her family took 32-hour train journey to Davos, Switzerland in contrast to the many delegates who arrived by up to 1,500 individual private jet flights for the World Economic Forum on January 23, 2019. She minced no words speaking to perhaps the most powerful men and women in the world. She said upon arrival:
Some people, some companies, some decision makers in particular have known exactly what priceless values they have been sacrificing to continue making unimaginable amounts of money. I think many of you here today belong to that group of people.
YouTube videos of her speech to the Forum two days later became viral sensations. She bluntly told her audience:
Our house is on fire… I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.
Time magazine named Greta one of the 25 most influential teens of 2018. Her home country topped that on International Women’s Day when she was proclaimed the most important woman of the year in Sweden in 2019.A float featuring Greta holding politician by the ears was featured in a German parade.
Now the movement Greta started is moving to a coordinated international protest on March 15—Global Strike for Future also called Student Strike for Climate. Local events are still registering but organizer report:
On March 15, tens of thousands of high-school and middle-school students in more than 30 [now 60] countries plan to skip school to demand that politicians treat the global climate crisis as the emergency it is. Shakespeare made the Ides of March famous with his soothsayer’s warning in Julius Caesar, but ancient Romans actually saw it as a day for settling debts. What bigger debt is there than the theft of a livable future?A call for the Climate strike in Washington, DC.
In the United States United States strikes are planned in 135 cities and towns, organized under the leadership of three girls—Alexandria Villasenor, Haven Coleman, and Isra Hirsi, daughter of the headline-making first-term Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN).
Major actions are expected in Washington, New York City and other major cities. The Chicago Youth Climate Strike is slated for Friday, March 15 and will begin in Grant Park at 11 am with a march to the Federal Plaza around 11:20 where there will be another Rally.
Get out of the way! Here come the kids!A little girl no longer but a confidant young woman.
Post script—Now 19 years old, Thunberg has continued her activism unabated. She crossed the Atlantic in a sailboat to address the United Nations and was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. As climate disasters have accelerated she has sharpened her criticism and demands even more. This year she has protested the Russian invasion of Ukraine and has been explicit in pointing out the direct connection between continued reliance on environment killing oil, gas, and carbon fuels is the immediate cause of war and refugee crises around the world.Thunberg protesting the invasion of Ukraine outside the Russian embassy in Stockholm.
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