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Students in 1,700 locations across over 100 countries around the globe staged a massive demonstration on Friday, demanding that leaders in their own countries and globally take action to address the existential threat of climate change. A reported 1.4 million students walked out of school and marched and held rallies from Tokyo to Cape Town, and Stockholm to New York to raise awareness of the climate change crisis and their increasing concern that their generation will be unduly impacted by the failure to reign in greenhouse gas emissions now before it is too late. Their chants and signs tell the story:
The students are having an impact. For example, CBS News reported that U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres the students inspired him to hold a special summit in September to deal with what he called “the climate emergency.” “My generation has failed to respond properly to the dramatic challenge of climate change,” Guterres wrote in an opinion piece in The Guardian. “This is deeply felt by young people. No wonder they are angry.” Photos of the strikes made local newspapers and received TV coverage as well around the globe, garnering the attention of tens of millions of people even on a particularly gruesome news day because of the shooting at the mosque in New Zealand.
Why This Matters:These student voices are a clarion call. Leaders should listen — not only because these students will be voters soon enough, but because of their sense of anxiety and urgency around climate change. There is an old adage in the conservation world — we do not inherit the planet from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. Ultimately all leaders with a conscience realize this truism and seek to cement their legacy with environmental accomplishments. But addressing the climate challenge cannot be merely an afterthought — a capstone for a successful political career. It must be a “prime directive” — an organizing principle — for how we govern ourselves into the future.
To Go Deeper: You can see more photos from the climate strikes around the globe here. And check out MSNBC’s coverage, featuring an interview with Monica. Or listen to her talk about the strikes on Background Briefing, a nationally syndicated radio show.
Justin Worland is a Washington-DC-based journalist covering energy and the environment for TIME. He is also the 2019 winner of the SEAL Environmental Journalism Award. ODP: Were you always interested in environmental journalism? How did you choose this beat – especially since ten years ago – it probably wasn’t as prevalent? JW: I definitely […]
Rue Mapp is the Founder and CEO of Outdoor Afro, a national not-for-profit organization and social community reconnecting African Americans with natural spaces through outdoor recreational activities. She oversees a volunteer leadership team of 80 men and women who represent 30 of the United States. Through Outdoor Afro, Mapp shares opportunities to build a broader […]
Late last week, Georgetown University announced a major decision — “to divest from fossil fuel investments over the next decade—including divestment from public securities within five years and private investments within ten years.” University President Jack DeGioia gave credit to members of the University community and to the Pope whose 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si’: On […]