24 may 2019

Latest global school climate strikes expected to beat turnout record

Organisers say more than 1.4 million young people are set to protest about the climate crisis

Matthew Taylor, The Guardian, Fri 24 May 2019

Hundreds of thousands of children and young people are walking out of lessons around the world on Friday as the school strike movement continues to snowball.

Climate strikes were planned in more than 1,400 cities in more than 110 countries. Organisers say the number of young people taking part is set to top the 1.4 million people who participated in the global day of strikes in March.

The global campaign – inspired by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg – comes amid increasing concern about the unfolding climate crisis, especially among young people.

Last year, the UN’s leading scientists warned that there were just 12 years to limit climate catastrophe. Earlier this month, another UN report warned that the widespread collapse of ecosystems was putting humanity itself at risk. And just last week it emerged that the Antarctic ice is melting much faster than previously feared and global atmospheric CO2 emissions reached a record level of 415ppm.

The school strike movement started in August when Thunberg, then 15, held a solo protest outside the Swedish parliament.

Since then hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren have taken part in strikes each week around the world from Australia to Canada, Ghana to Germany.

In the UK, more than 100 school climate demonstrations have been planned and organisers say they will focus on the need for radical reform of the education system to address the ecological crisis.

Noga Levy-Rapoport, of the UK Student Climate Network which helped organise the events, said climate breakdown posed “a grave threat to life on Earth”.

“In order to properly address the crisis, we need our educational institutions to be hubs of sustainability that provide a space for learning and teaching to prepare today’s students to not only be those that lead a just transition, but to prepare for a changing world,” she said.

Last month UK youth strikers and Thunberg met Westminster party leaders to highlight the scale and scope of the unfolding crisis.

They have now written an open letter to the UK’s trade union movement asking it to get behind a transformative green new deal and support the climate strikes. In a piece in Friday’s Guardian, Thunberg and other strikers from around the world call on adults to join them in a general strike in September.

Bhavreen Malhotra Kandhari, a school pupil who is due to take part in strikes in India, said: “We have learned that if we don’t start acting for our future, nobody else will make the first move. Once again our voices will be heard on the streets, but this is not just up to us.”

In Australia Eloise Kieler, a school striker from Sydney, said she felt she had no choice but to walk out of lessons.

“Despite watching the climate crisis unfold, despite knowing the facts, politicians don’t act, the fossil fuel industry keeps making huge profits,” she said.

“This is our future: so we will walk out of school, quit our college lessons, and take to the streets to say enough is enough. Wouldn’t you go on strike too, if you thought doing so could help protect your own future?”

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