In schools across at least 100 countries, students went out of their classrooms on Friday (March 15) to participate in what have become known as the “School strikes”, “Climate strikes”, “Fridays For Future” against climate change inaction.
The school strike movement was inspired by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, who has been striking from school every Friday since last August to stand outside the Swedish parliament building and demand that her home country adhere to the Paris agreement on climate change.
Her demands were that the Swedish government reduce carbon emissions per the Paris Agreement, and she protested by sitting outside the Parlament every day during school hours with a sign that read “Skolstrejk för klimatet” (“school strike for climate”). On 7 September, just before the general elections, she announced that she would continue to strike every Friday until Sweden aligns with the Paris Agreement. She coined the slogan FridaysForFuture, which gained worldwide attention. She inspired school students across the globe to take part in student strikes.
Inspired by Thunberg, organized school strikes started in November 2018. In Australia, thousands of school students were inspired by Thunberg to strike on Fridays, ignoring Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s call for “more learning in schools and less activism”. Galvanized by the COP 24 Climate Change Conference in Katowice, Poland, in December student strikes continued at least in 270 cities in countries including Australia, Austria,Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, Finland, Denmark, Japan, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.[
In a speech at the COP24 climate talks in Katowice, Poland last December, then-15-year-old Thunberg castigated global leaders for their decades of inaction on climate change: “You only speak of green eternal economic growth because you are too scared of being unpopular. You only talk about moving forward with the same bad ideas that got us into this mess, even when the only sensible thing to do is pull the emergency brake. You are not mature enough to tell it like it is. Even that burden you leave to us children.”
Global climate strikers, with the inspiration of 15-year old Greta Thunberg, laid the following demands:
- 100% Clean Energy. They want governments, public and private sectors on an open roadmap for transition to Clean & Renewable Energy. Now there are many places in the world that are planning for or working on the transition from fossil energy addiction to coming clean and this tendency must grow. For instance, some schools will install solar panels, to walk the first decisive steps towards leaving the fossil age behind.
- Keep fossils in the ground. Students stand on the fact that stopping fossil fuel extraction is essential to keep our planet from climate chaos. People all around the world are fighting the expansion of fossil fuel extraction.
- Help victims of climate change. The climate change is mainly caused by rich people and mostly suffered by the poor.
More and more supporters come from all the continents, except Antarctica, in 2019. Large mass strikes took place on 17 and 18 January 2019, when at least 45000 students protested in Switzerland and Germany alone, against insufficient policies on global warming.In several countries, including Germany and the UK, pupils demanded the change of laws to reduce the voting age to 16 so they could influence public elections in favour of the youth.[
Belgian environment minister for Flanders Joke Schauvliege Jresigned on 5 February 2019 after falsely claiming the state security agency had evidence that the school strikes in Belgium were a “set‑up”.
In England, on 13 February 2019, following the open letters supporting Extinction Rebellion in 2018, 224 academics signed an open letter giving their “full support to the students” attending the School Strike for Climate action. Then, on Friday 15 February, more than 60 actions in towns and cities within the United Kingdom took place, with an estimated 15000 strikers taking part.Climate scientist Stefan Rahmstorf, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, addressed a Fridays for Future climate strike in Potsdam, Germany on 15 February 2019.[
On 21 February 2019, the European Commition chief executive, Jean Claude Juncker, stated intent to spend hundreds of billions of euros on climate change mitigation, amounting to a fourth of the EU budget. He announced this in a speech next to Greta Thunberg, and media credited the school strike movement with this announcement.[
On 5 March 2019, 700 German researchers signed a petition in support of the school strikes in that country. This was followed by 1200 researchers in Finland signing a letter, on 11 March 2019, supporting the strikes.[
On 15 March 2019, school strikes, urging adults to take responsibility and stop the climate change, began taking place in over 2000 cities worldwide. An estimated 1.4 million pupils participated in the events.
Children at other schools and in other countries have joined her with strikes of their own, but the strike on Friday was the largest and most international demonstration yet. According to organizers, events took place in about 125 countries. In Germany, more than 300000 pupils demonstrated in some 230 cities with more than 25000 in Berlin alone. In Italy more than 200000 students demonstrated, 100000 only in Milan according to the organizers. In Montreal more than 150 000 attended, Stockholm 15000 to 20000, Melbourne 30000, Brussels 30000, Munich 8000, Paris, London, Washington, Reykjavík, Oslo, Helsinki, Copenhagen, Tokyo.
The strikes have also been criticised as truancy. Prime Minister Theresa May of the United Kingdom passed judgement on the strikes as wasting lesson and teaching time. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for “more learning and less activism” following the strikes. Australia’s Education Minister Dan Tehan suggested that if school students feel strongly about a cause, then they should protest in their own time in the evenings or on weekends.[
In New Zealand, there was mixed response from politicians, community leaders, and schools. Students were threatened to be marked as truant by some principals for attending the strike without their parents’ or schools’ permission. Judith Collins, and several other Members of Parliament were dismissive of the impact of the strike, while Climate Change Minister James Shaw expressed support noting that little attention would be paid to marchers protesting on the weekend.[
On 15 March, the UN General Secretary Antonio Guterres embraced the strikers, admitting that “My generation has failed to respond properly to the dramatic challenge of climate change. This is deeply felt by young people. No wonder they are angry.” Guterres has already invited world leaders to a UN summit in September 2019 to commit themselves more strongly to the policy framework laid out by the Paris Agreement.
A new teenager generation, as called Generation Z, is known for their fight for truth, knowing no compromises, doing exactly what they want. Facing this, a strike lead by such stubborn protesters has to do nothing but succeed and change our way of living, meaning – change our Planet.