The face of Greta Thunberg – the impassioned sixteen year-old Swedish climate activist has become synonymous with the rise youth climate activism. Her dire warnings to global political elites of the impending realities of climate change have become the stuff of a million retweets and Facebook shares.
The rise in youth activism on climate change is not only uplifting to see – it’s frankly essential. This is particularly true at a time when Brexit dominates everything and the UK is gripped with political uncertainty.
The face of Greta Thunberg – the impassioned sixteen year-old Swedish climate activist has become synonymous with the rise youth climate activism.
Her dire warnings to global political elites of the impending realities of climate change have become the stuff of a million retweets and Facebook shares. With her clarity and rousing calls to action, she has become the face of a young generation of activists.
In recent weeks, the sight of thousands of school children skipping lessons to deliver dire warnings to those in power have lifted the spirits of millions of jaded older activists. They stand as a stark reminder of the future that all in the environmental movement are fighting for.
According the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – we have under twelve years to prevent runaway climate change. While other issues have come to dominate both domestically and on the international stage, we have been losing time. Something which is at the forefront of the minds of the new, young generation of climate activists.
From the rallying cries of the Extinction Rebellion Movement to Thunberg’s moving speeches – the tone of climate activism has changed and with good reason. For years it has been urgent but now that urgency is ever greater, and our movements are reinforcing this message.
As we speak of extinction, existential threat and the kind of future that may be denied to today’s young – we must not lose the justice arguments within the climate discussion. It is after all the world’s poorest people who will bear the brunt of the impacts of climate change, while the lion’s share of the responsibility lies with the global elite.
A Broad-based Movement
As 2019 unfolds – I hope it will be a year that sees a rising tide of climate action with young people leading from the front. Seeing people of all ages willing to take direct action as part of the Extinction rebellion Movement and young people demonstrating their passion for the cause is a reminder of the need for a large, broad-based movement to achieve the change we need.
It is essential that activists, whether aged nine or ninety-five draw connections between the big issues of our day – linking climate change with the role of the global elite and corporate power.
As activists and community members we must celebrate the informed passionate and creative approach that young people bring to climate campaigning. They are the ones who will suffer as a result of inaction.
The stereotype of the self-interested politically disengaged youth is a pernicious falsehood.
The School Strike for Climate movement is in its infancy and could be a powerful component of progressive environmental activism globally.
To challenge the vested interests that stand in the way of meaningful climate action – coordinated action between young and older activists of all ages is essential. Here’s to further strikes and young people in the UK and globally taking powerful steps to fight for a future for all of us.
Andrew Taylor-Dawson has been involved with the social justice and environmental movements for over a decade. He works in the NGO sector as well as writing about civil society, campaigning and progressive causes. Twitter: @Andrew_J_Taylor.