CLIMATE Youth Protestors
15-year-old Greta Thunberg has become a figurehead for youthful climate activists limit our opportunities for education, for networking, for being inspired… based on our sense of guilt?’ It’s a compelling argument in a complex debate over personal responsibility and social change. Although other youth climate activists have begun drawing stricter red lines.
SYSTEMIC CHANGE In November 2018, a 15-year-old Swedish girl named Greta Thunberg announced she would not be attending the award ceremony for the Children’s Climate Prize because other nominees would be making the journey by aircraft. Three months earlier, in the build-up to national elections, she had gone truant from school, instead travelling daily to the Swedish parliament building with a black and white sign – ‘School Strike for Climate.’ Greta is open about her Asperger syndrome. The protest of this solitary child, seated on the streets and protesting with laser-like-focus on an issue that seemed bigger than her years made for uncomfortable viewing.
News of her strike spread. Greta steered her social media followers though the mire of equity issues, year-on-year emission cuts and nationally determined contributions – providing an unflinching voice on the radically challenging realities of climate science. But solidarity, as with any social outlier, was slow coming at first. Drawn perhaps by the international media interest, as much as identifying with her cause, a trickle of children and a school teacher joined in. In Castlemaine, Australia a sympathy strike was called for Friday 30 November. Attempting to limit disruption, prime minister Scott Morrison’s condescending rant demanding ‘more learning in schools, and less activism,’ spectacularly backfired, encouraging an estimated 15,000 children in 30 localities across Australia to skip school and join the protest.
Meanwhile Thunberg had been invited to speak at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
Thunberg was making decision makers squirm, their attempts at climate change mitigation dismissed as ‘child’s play’
(UNFCCC) conference in Poland, travelling overland to Katowice by train. ‘You are not mature enough to tell it how it is,’ she scolded world leaders at their 24th annual attempt to mitigate climate change. ‘Even that burden you leave to us children.’ Thunberg is too young to even be a millennial, belonging to Generation Z, born from the late 1990s onwards. Yet here she was making decision makers squirm, their attempts at climate change mitigation up to that point dismissed as ‘child’s play’. While the US youth lawsuit relies on existing structures of the legal system to achieve climate action, these young people in Europe and Australia were acting outside it. In the closing months of 2018,
22 • Geographical
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