The newest star is Greta Thunberg in Sweden (born in 2003) who inspired other girls to lead the School Strike for Climate movement in Europe, the US, and Australia, using the tactic she started of not attending school one day a week to strike and marching for action. When she was 15, Thunberg started the “climate revolution” with her first school strike in August 2018 in front of the Swedish parliament building. “Unite behind the science, that is our demand,” Thunberg said, naming this the biggest crisis in human history. The young activists want to keep the warming from going higher than 1.5 Celsius.
Building on her fame, in December, Thunberg spoke to the UN Climate Change conference in Poland and continued to address major conferences such as the World Economic Forum. (She doesn’t fly but takes the more environmentally sound train.) Of course, the climate activists make good use of social media to gain supporters. Her Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts each have well over 200,000 followers. The young activists communicate using WhatsApp, Discord server chat group, and weekly conference calls using Zoom.
The student strikes paid off quickly when early in 2019 The European Commission pledged more than $1.13 trillion over the next seven years to fight climate change. Thunberg stood by the side of Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels as he made the announcement and praised her and the hundreds of thousands of youth who had led weekly climate strikes since December. He said, “I am glad to see that young people are taking to the streets in Europe to raise visibility of the issue of climate change.”[i] Thunberg responded by pointing out that a minimum of 80% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030 is needed, not the 40% proposed reduction. She said about adults saying her generation is the hope for the future, “There is simply not enough time to wait for us to grow up and become the ones in charge.” She can be sarcastic as in her response to adults who say youth will save the world—“It would be helpful if you could help us just a little bit.” She faults politicians for 30 years of inaction.
Despite being diagnosed as on the autism spectrum, suffering from depression when she was 11 (partly because of pictures she saw of the suffering of polar bears and other animals hurt by global warming), and hate mail from critics, she confidently addresses large groups, a small girl with her hair in long braids and no makeup. She commented, “All my life I’ve been invisible, the invisible girl in the back who doesn’t say anything,” so it’s hard to suddenly get so much attention but gratifying to see some results. The strikes spread to about 400 cities with tens of thousands of students participating in the #FridaysForFuture.[ii]
In Belgium, Anuna De Weever, 17, is a leader of the strikes, inspired by a video of Thunberg. De Weever identifies herself as “gender-fluid,” which she explained gives her a viewpoint different from the mainstream unable to ignore real problems, so “I start to have my own values, own principles…”[iii] In Germany Luisa Newbauer, 22, leads the climate strike, and girls are also leaders in the Netherlands, the UK’s Student Climate Network (leader Anna Tayler, 17, was backed by the head teachers’ union), France, Australia, and the US. The UK Student Climate Network organizes the Youth Strike and call on the government to declare a climate emergency. Protests also were organized in Thailand, Colombia, and Uganda.
Students in the US (where emissions are increasing) joined international protests on March 15, 2019, led by Zero Hour. The group was founded by Jamie Margolin, age 17, who said the group is mainly led by young women of color. Their goal is the Green New Deal. They wrote, “We stand in solidarity with Greta Thunberg and all youth strikers worldwide as we demand action on this issue. We are running out of time, and we won’t be silent any longer.” Inspired by Thunberg, in 2019 Alexandria Villaseñor, age 13, started protesting in front of the UN every Friday because “adults have failed my generation” Her sign reads, “School Strike 4 Climate.” She said, “To quote Greta, change is coming whether you like it or not.” She is a leader of the Youth Climate Strike Movement sharing organizing with two other girls: Isra Hirsi, 15, in Minneapolis and Haven Coleman, 12, in Denver. The latter tweeted, “Most kids pick a sport or instrument, instead I chose to save the world. Who is with me? We’re almost out of time.” Florida March for Our Lives activists like David Hogg helped publicize the Youth Climate Strike, and the three girls work with
[i] Julie Conley, “’Kicking Ass for Her Generation,’” Common Dreams, February 21, 2019.
[ii] Jeff Beradelli and Haley Ott, “Meet the Teens Leading a Global Movement to Ditch School and Fight Climate Change,” CBS News, February 22, 2019.
[iii] J. Lester Feder, “A Huge Climate Change Movement Led by Teenage Girls is Sweeping Europe,” BuzzFeed, February 11, 2019.
Senator Diane Feinstein tells Sunrise youth climate activists that they didn’t vote for her and she doesn’t support the Green New Deal. She needs to hear from us.
The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) has launched the Call for Applications for the 2019 edition of its Fellowship Programme. The Call is open to participants between 25 to 35 years old, from the Middle East, North Africa, Europe and North America, with a strong interest in intercultural exchanges. The theme of the Fellowship 2019 being “The role of women in peacemaking and conflict prevention”. Candidates must be able to present professional achievements in these fields.