The Global Climate Strike took place during the 2019 Global Week for Future (September 20–27) and it is estimated to have been the largest climate-motivated mobilisation in world history. Thousands of protests took place over the course of the week across the world, and 350.org has estimated over 7.6 million people in 185 countries raised their voices and spoke out for our suffering planet.
The thousands of protests were inspired by young climate activist Greta Thunberg. Thunberg pioneered and popularised the Fridays for Future school strike for the climate in August 2018 in Sweden, which was followed by similar school strikes in countries across the world every week for the remainder of the school year. Thunberg has since delivered multiple speeches, including to world leaders at the recent U.N. Climate Action Summit, and at George Washington University, where she declared that “activism works” and concluded with: “see you on the streets.” Thunberg and other youths’ work in these strikes is what has given rise and inspiration to the Global Climate Strike protests the world recently experienced. They have also inspired thousands of scientists, politicians, and other public professionals to pledge their support and say: “students have led, and we must follow.” However, Thunberg isn’t the only young person contributing to the collective voice speaking out for the climate. Isra Hirsi, a 16-year-old Black Muslim youth, co-founded the U.S. Youth Climate Strike and emphasizes the importance of intersectionality in the fight against climate change. Autumn Peltier, an Anishinaabe-kwe and member of the Wikwemikong First Nation, lives on Canada’s own Manitoulin Island and is an internationally-recognized advocate for clean water. These young women are some of the countless youth inspiring action on a global level.
But what are these speeches, strikes and protests doing to actually fight climate change? The most significant thing the climate movement has done thus far is raise awareness and inspire people across the world to take action and mobilize. More than ever before, people are involved in the movement for climate justice and politicians and companies are being held accountable for actions that have negatively and significantly impacted the environment. Politicians are listening and acting. Here in Canada, Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of the Liberal Party, and Jagmeet Singh of the New Democratic Party all marched in protests during the Global Climate Strike. Furthermore, during the Global Week for Future, Trudeau declared that if re-elected, the federal Liberal government would plant 2 billion trees in 10 years with revenue from the Trans Mountain Pipeline. Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante declared she would reduce carbon emissions in Montreal by 55 percent by 2030 and have Montreal become carbon neutral by 2050.
Of course, there is no guarantee that world leaders will keep the promises they made in the heat of the Global Climate Strike. It is up to us, the world’s citizens, to keep the pressure on and make sure that governments and corporations continue to be held accountable and hear our voices. There are many ways to do so, including signing petitions, staying educated and updated on the actions of our government, and joining or starting local climate activism groups. For more information on how to stay involved, visit globalclimatestrike.net. As a global community, we must convince our world leaders to put a full stop to the unsustainable practices that have made climate change our present reality, and our future demise.