It’s 2019, the youth are striking for the good of the climate, and I couldn’t be more proud.
Tomorrow, thousands of British students across the country like myself are walking out of class. Over the past few months, young people across the world have been doing the same to demand that their governments take action against climate change. There were 15,000 students in Australia and 35,000 in Belgium. But it was one girl in Sweden who started it all.
Greta Thunberg is that girl. In August last year, she refused to go to school every day until the Swedish elections, asking politicians to take action against climate change. Since then, she’s protested outside the Riksdag parliament house every Friday, sparking the #FridaysForFuture movement, and now she is joined by hundreds of other students every week.
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Our generation will no longer accept catastrophic changes that are negatively affecting our future. Years of limited action against climate change, years of covered-up information on the climate crisis, and now we are finally saying enough is enough.
Developing countries are only getting around US$35-49 billion a year in aid to adapt to climate change. Government subsidies for fossil fuels are US$331 billion a year, around eight times as much.
However, our anger is not inarticulate and misdirected. It’s organised, coordinated and passionate, and we’re using it to ask for change. We deserve better from the people we’re supposed to place our trust in. We can’t even vote yet, but we will be faced with the consequences of politicians’ inaction for decades.
Action is needed, and so the UK Student Climate Network – a student-run climate activist group – has come up with four demands. We demand the government declares a climate emergency, taking active steps towards climate justice; we demand reform of our education system so it teaches all young people about the extent of the climate emergency; we demand the government warns the public about the peril that we face and the urgency that is required to act; and finally, we demand the government recognises that we have the biggest stake in our future, and so lowers the voting age to 16.
These, to me, seem like relatively simple demands. Maybe I will get told I don’t know enough about politics, or have another condescending remark directed at me about my age and lack of political experience. But perhaps our youthfulness is to our advantage: we believe change is possible, and we’re not old enough to have given up hope yet. “From action,” Greta says, “comes hope.” She’s right. I have so much hope for us and the more we act, the more our hope grows. It has spread across the globe to young activists everywhere. “I will not beg the world leaders to care for our future,” says Greta. “I will instead let them know change is coming whether they like it or not.” She’s right, again. We are past patiently waiting for change. We’re acting, and we’re acting now.
Crop yields are expected to drop across the Pacific. The biggest decline is expected in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, where the staple sweet potato crop could halve by 2050.
When I think about it, this protest is long overdue. Having grown up with the knowledge that if nothing happens about climate change, I might not get the chance to do many of the things I want to do with my life. Because of this, taking action for our climate has always been something at the back of my mind. But it’s this movement, YouthStrike4Climate, that has empowered all of us to finally take action.
A lot of people have questioned my reasons for striking. There’s the obvious: I want to help bring about positive and meaningful action on climate change. However, on top of that, I can no longer justify doing nothing. This is what we owe to ourselves and the generation still to come. We simply can’t stand by and watch the world and our environment collapse around us.
I am lucky enough to be among a group of people who have supportive schools. They support the reason for striking – if not necessarily the way we’re doing it – although I may get an unauthorised absence on my school record. This is a price I’m willing to pay if it means a chance at securing all of our futures. Many schools are less supportive, not allowing strikes or threatening detention, but even those students are still planning to strike, showing the level of passion and dedication amongst young people today.
The United States constitutes 5% of the world population and contributes to 22% of world’s carbon emission.
This is a generation which has decided to change the world. And it starts with our strike tomorrow.
Lottie Tellyn is a 17-year-old school student and YouthStrike4Climate activist
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