In what is expected to be the biggest protest ever against the threat posed to the planet by climate change, crowds of children skipped school Friday to join a global strike, heeding the rallying cry of teen activist Greta Thunberg and demanding adults act to stop environmental disaster.
Organizers forecast one million participants overall. In Australia alone, they said more than 300,000 children, parents and supporters rallied.
Yelling slogans and waving placards, children and adults across Asia and the Pacific kicked off the protest.
— Alex Steffen (@AlexSteffen) September 20, 2019
“We are the future,” said Vihaan Agarwal, 15, protesting in Delhi.
“We believe there is no point in going to school if we are not going to have a future to live in.”
Thunberg told AFP that she hoped Friday’s massive worldwide climate strikes would mark a turning point in persuading leaders to take decisive action on global warming.
“You see the pictures of all these people. You can’t believe what you are seeing,” she said during an interview before the start of the march in U.S. financial capital.
Protests spread later to Africa and Europe with massive crowds filling the streets in Paris, London, and Berlin. Major demonstrations are also planned in cities across the United States.
— Make the Road Action 🦋 (@MaketheRoadAct) September 20, 2019
“I’d like to ask you not to cut down forests, and reduce garbage production, and not to use so many petrol-fuelled cars,” five-year-old Teo, told a crowd of 500 in Slovakia.
“Stop climate change now” and “There is no planet B” read some of the signs brandished by demonstrators in a trendy central shopping district of Tokyo.
— Brian Kahn (@blkahn) September 20, 2019
“We adults caused this planet emergency,” said one of them, Chika Maruta, 32, marching with her colleagues from a cosmetics company.
“We should take our responsibilities for the next generation.”
A ‘Green New Deal’
In Washington D.C. thousands of students joined climate activists from grassroots organizations such as Sunrise Movement and Extinction Rebellion to march on Capitol Hill, demanding action.
“I’m striking for my future, for the future of this planet, for environmental sustainability, and for communities of color which are some of the first to be hit by the consequences of climate change,” Tyler Massias, a 19-year-old American University student and climate activist, told The Globe Post.
— Alex Graf 🌹 (@Mjcabooseman) September 20, 2019
Many of the marchers were calling for the U.S. government to enact the “Green New Deal,” a congressional resolution popularized by the Sunrise Movement and New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The plan calls for a sweeping transition away from fossil fuels to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
“I’m at the climate strike because there are only so many ways to manifest your dissatisfaction with a neoliberal system that thrives off of the exploitation of the planet and of its people,” 19-year-old American University student Amanda Brown Varela told The Globe Post.
As was the case with last week’s climate strike in front of the White House featuring Thunberg , the demonstration was led by young people such as 13-year-old Ayli Stoebenau, who skipped school with some of her friends in order to attend the strike and told The Globe Post she was striking for a “clean and healthy future.”
‘We Deserve Better’
Swedish schoolgirl Thunberg, 16, has denounced world leaders for failing to take urgent action to address the crisis.
On the eve of the strikes, she insisted solutions were being “ignored.”
“Everything counts, what you do counts,” she said in a video message to supporters.
— Waleed Shahid (@_waleedshahid) September 20, 2019
Demonstrators young and old echoed her cry.
About 200 marched in Ghana’s capital Accra, where some 44 percent of the country’s population has not heard of climate change, according to a study by Afrobarometer.
Primary school pupils call for climate action. #FridaysForFuture #ClimateStrike in Abuja, Nigeria.
We want #ClimateJustice. Is time for leaders to walk the talk on climate action. pic.twitter.com/BseuTQ5S0h
— Oladosu Adenike (@the_ecofeminist) September 20, 2019
“Developing countries like Ghana are the most affected. We don’t have the resources to adapt to climate change,” said 26-year-old protest organizer Ellen Lindsey Awuku.
Hundreds of others also took to the streets in Kenya and Uganda.
The demonstrations were due to culminate in New York, where 1.1 million students in around 1,800 public schools have been permitted to skip school.
The Edinburgh #climatestrike is easily one of the biggest marches ever seen at the Scottish Parliament. The message is clear: we need radical action to protect our future, and we need to take it now. 🌍 pic.twitter.com/N8vZSYYJRS
— Scottish Greens (@scotgp) September 20, 2019
Events began in the deluge-threatened Pacific Islands of Vanuatu, the Solomons and Kiribati, where children chanted: “We are not sinking, we are fighting.”
The defiance message was heard across Asia.
“We are the future and we deserve better,” 12-year-old Lilly Satidtanasarn – known as “Thailand’s Greta” for her campaigning against plastic bags in malls -told AFP in Bangkok.
“This (problem) was created by the generation before us … so much is at risk because of one generation and it is up to the next generation to change all of that,” said 16-year-old Reezan Ahmed at a protest in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad, where some 1,000 people demonstrated.
— Greenpeace EU (@GreenpeaceEU) September 20, 2019
Friday’s mass action set the scene for a range of high-profile climate events in New York.
A Youth Climate Summit will take place at the United Nations on Saturday.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will then host an emergency summit on Monday in which he will urge world leaders to raise their commitments made in the 2015 Paris climate accord.
— 350.org Europe (@350Europe) September 20, 2019
The agreement saw countries pledge to limit the long-term rise in the average temperature of the Earth to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels, and if possible, to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
A landmark U.N. report to be unveiled next week will warn that global warming and pollution are ravaging Earth’s oceans and icy regions in ways that could unleash misery on a global scale.
The scientific report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will be put to a gathering of experts from 195 countries meeting in Morocco from Friday.
Alex Graf and Nachiketh Mamani contributed to this report.