Why we should all strike4climate

Youth climate strikers
We need to see parents, presidents and leaders on the frontline with their children.

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More than 867 strikes took place across the world for the second Fridays For Future International School Strike for Climate last month. In the Netherlands, students from over 22 cities have skipped school since the beginning of the year.

For the second edition of the global strike, young people met up not far from a plastic whale at Utrecht's train station, heading for a climate march and a rally in a local park.

The sun illuminated their commitment: some youngsters had travelled more than two hours on crowded trains to participate. Tens of hundreds were carrying their placards and flags, with or without the support of their schools. 

Common goals

Coming from Portugal, where Matilde Alvim and her folks were back on the streets of Lisbon, I decided to join the young protesters on my way to Schumacher College's alumni gathering.

I didn't know any protesters when I arrived in Utrecht and as I started walking in search of the march, I was lucky to bump into a group of like-minded young women. One of them would be singing at the park's stage in twenty minutes. 

Walking and talking to 17-year old Wijs De Groot, I discovered that some groups were striking weekly, sometimes on different weekdays, while others organised events and discussions.

Wijs told me that her mother didn't want her to be there. She loves her art school, and has a special interest in materials, which is connected to her enthusiasm for sustainable fashion - all that combined with a clear trust that climate action is something worth fighting for. 

Students from other establishments have been punished for missing school, but Wijs' teachers supported their pupils, only asking them for a proof of their participation in the self-organised political actions.

Real education

Colourful, creative  banners proved to me and to other supporters that younger generations have been doing their homework - they are committed to being co-responsible for our common future.

That inspiring Friday lecture left me with a voluntary assignment: reflect on how I want to spend my Fridays (For Future).

Inspired by Greta Thunberg's speech, I have recently forsaken my plan to start a PhD related to climate change. Thunberg, at 16 years old, encouraged me to stop studying and instead do what I can to block this path of no return.

Greta will be striking on Fridays until countries like Sweden are fully comitted to the Paris Agreement. According to her, "there is no point in studying for a future that soon will be no more".

With this sentence, she also denounces the enormous gap between theory-based education and the reality of not being schooled to lead: "our house is on fire".

Deep reflection

The task requires empathy and meaningful participation - the era of education for the sake of well-paid jobs is over. We need a shift in collective perception right now.

Business as usual ignores climate change and the living planet. The planet's ability to self-regulate, life on Earth, and the rights of all living beings to existence are at stake. All of us should be striking on Fridays - at the least. 

The CEOs of fossil fuel corporations should take this day off to ask themselves what to tell their grandchildren.

Presidents could practice deep reflection on Fridays to consider the rights of those most affected by climate breakdown and those yet to be born, and remember indigenous cultures that teach us to act only if decisions will benefit seven generations ahead. 

I dream of chiefs of state joining Extinction Rebellion. Hopefully, we will see parents joining their kids on Fridays, asking themselves where their work is taking them, and what kind of education kids need to shrink human levels of apathy, inertia, and greed. Shouldn't all of us be striking on Fridays?

Positive change

Another 17-year old - whose name means "springtime" in Dutch - told me on my flight back that she is also trying to stop flying. 

Lente said that she became vegan in response to her increasing concerns about western lifestyle, as most of her friends had done too.

To stop is not the same as doing nothing, it is an important action. Without a foot on the break, our society is incapable of opening space for fresh ideas, learn with past experience without fearfully recreating the past, and observe what nature and the youth can teach society. 

The youth's message is to stop resisting a shift in climate-consciousness - rather embrace it, learn with it. We, the younger generations know that the crisis cannot be addressed with same thinking that created it.

Despite many leaders' sadness and desperation, we have the energy and will to drive positive change. After many school years learning concepts like to reuse, recycle, conserve nature, protect animals, respect others and live sustainably, we are the ones daring to ask, what do we want to sustain?

This Author

Rafaela Graça Scheiffer is a Brazilian biologist who recently concluded her MSc in Holistic Science at Schumacher College. She is based in Faro, Portugal, where she investigates the local connection between water, community, and climate.

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