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Around the World With Students Protesting Climate Change

Students hold a protest against climate change on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, March 15, 2019. REUTERS/Chris Wattie
Students hold a protest against climate change on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, March 15, 2019. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

On Friday, March 15, around 10,000 students in several countries skipped school to raise concerns about climate change. 

Tens of thousands of students walked out of school and held rallies in countries across the globe last Friday to demand action on climate change. Students from New Zealand, the U.K., Australia, Denmark, Italy, Switzerland, Portugal, Austria, Singapore, Portugal, Thailand, South Korea and more participated in the day of protest. Students in U.S. cities such as St. Paul, New York City, Los Angeles, Washington and more also followed suit.

“The oceans are rising, so are we,” a banner said in a student demonstration in Sydney, referring to the rise in sea surface due to global warming.

In New Zealand a student brought a banner saying that climate change is worse than Voldemort, an antagonist character in the Harry Potter novels and movies.

Protesters demanding action on climate change gather at Te Ngakau Civic Square in Wellington, New Zealand March 15, 2019.  REUTERS/Charlotte Greenfield

Protesters demanding action on climate change gather at Te Ngakau Civic Square in Wellington, New Zealand March 15, 2019. REUTERS/Charlotte Greenfield

Some political leaders, including those from the left-wing and the Communist Party, also joined students in Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. While 60 students in the capital of Thailand, Bangkok, protested the use of plastic since the country has a huge plastic waste disposal problem. The Thai government through the Ministry of Natural Resource and Environment responded positively by inviting the protesters to a meeting in two weeks.

In Montreal, Canada, students formed human chains around six high schools, urging the government to take stronger action to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“Although individual actions are crucial, the fact is that collective and institutional decisions must be taken to reflect the seriousness of the situation,” a group of university organizers said in a statement.

Greta Thunberg: The Girl Behind the Global Act

Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old from Sweden, is credited with initiating the student protests on climate change. She started her own private protest against her government about climate change in August 2018 when she began sitting outside Swedish Parliament building holding a sign that said “school strike for the climate.” She joined Friday’s protests in Stockholm. Similar actions also took place in Sweden’s major cities.

Thunberg is the founder of Youth Strike for Climate and was nominated for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize before Friday’s massive protest.

“There [is] a crisis in front of us that we have to live with, that we will have to live with for all our lives, our children, our grandchildren and all future generations,” Thunberg said in a rally in Stockholm.

Reactions to School Strike for Climate 

Australia’s Minister of Education Dan Tehan questioned whether such a rally represented grassroots’ movements. German’s Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said that students should not have skipped school to take to the streets as they could have staged a demonstration on the weekend.

Others hailed the students’ awareness about the impact of environmental problems. Andrea Nahles, the chief of Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD), said the student rally had an impact on influencing the Angela Merkel government, which is dealing with the country’s coal commission recommendation to stop using coals by 2038.

“Climate protection is now finally a top political priority for the German government. That’s what the Climate Cabinet has decided to do…. This is also your success, #FFF [Fridays for Future],” Nahles tweeted.

Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen met protesters in a rally in Copenhagen and supported the strike, adding that climate issues must be a top priority. “We must listen to the youth. Especially when they’re right: the climate must be one of our top priorities. Hope all these bright young people will be back in school on Monday – we’ll need great scientists to help solve the climate issues in the future ,” Rasmussen tweeted.

Climate Change and the Student Demonstration

The passionate and concerned students believe climate change and global warming is at a crisis point and is an issue the world must face immediately. Nearly all climatologists agree human activity causes global warming – habits like fossil fuel (coal, oil and gas) burning, smoking, littering, unnecessary electricity use, the use of plastic waste and so on.

A scientific consensus has found that the Earth’s average temperature has increased between 0.4 and 0.8 degrees Celsius in the past 100 years. Researchers are conducting studies related to global warming, and they estimate the global average temperature may increase between 1.4 and 5.8 degrees Celsius by 2100.

Global warming not only affects environmental health but also affects human health, as revealed in a U.N. report in 2017 which identified at least five categorically different ways global warming negatively impacts human health.

“The report clearly highlights the need for the U.N. and partners to continuously strengthen their actions to support governments to build climate resilience, including measures to protect human health,” said Youssef Nassef, Director of the Adaptation Programme of the UNFCCC secretariat.

The report detailed how global warming can lead to the increased spread of disease, malnutrition and displacement. According to the report’s estimation, weather-related catastrophes will displace 22.5 million people.

Another recent study revealed that air pollution kills more people than cigarettes. Researchers in Cyprus and Germany estimate air pollution contributed to 8.8 million deaths in 2015, more than the previously estimated 4.5 million. 

These are the reports and concerns that students around the world are hearing and taking to the streets for. See scenes from the student climate protests around the world below:

France

Protesters demanding action on climate change gather in Melbourne, Australia March 15, 2019.  REUTERS/Sonali Paul

Protesters demanding action on climate change gather in Melbourne, Australia March 15, 2019. REUTERS/Sonali Paul

Austria

Youth hold a banner as they demonstrate for climate change during the "Fridays for Future" school strike, on Heldenplatz in Vienna, Austria March 15, 2019.  REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

Youth hold a banner as they demonstrate for climate change during the “Fridays for Future” school strike, on Heldenplatz in Vienna, Austria March 15, 2019. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

India

Students hold placards as they take part in a global protest against climate change in Gurugram, India, March 15, 2019. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Students hold placards as they take part in a global protest against climate change in Gurugram, India, March 15, 2019. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

El Salvador

Students participate in a demonstration against climate change in Suchitoto, El Salvador, March 15, 2019. REUTERS/Jose Cabezas

South Africa

Students take part in a global protest against climate change in Cape Town, South Africa, March 15, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

Students take part in a global protest against climate change in Cape Town, South Africa, March 15, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

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Yasmeen Rasidi

Yasmeen is a writer and political science graduate of the National University, Jakarta. She covers a variety of topics for Citizen Truth including the Asia and Pacific region, international conflicts and press freedom issues. Yasmeen had worked for Xinhua Indonesia and GeoStrategist previously. She writes from Jakarta, Indonesia.

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