Youth-led climate protests sweep across Europe

Thousands of youth strikers gather in Parliament Square in central London to protest the government's lack of action on climate change.
Thousands of youth strikers gather in Parliament Square in central London to protest the government’s lack of action on climate change. Wiktor Szymanowicz / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Thousands of young people in the U.K. are up in arms — not about Brexit, or the latest royal family gossip, but about climate change.

Students walked out of schools today in cities across the U.K., and other parts of Europe — the latest demonstration in what has become a global youth climate strike. This movement started six months ago when Swedish teen Greta Thunberg began leaving school every Friday to protest on the steps of her country’s parliament. Thunberg’s environmental activism is still going strong, and she has delivered powerful speeches to both the U.N.and the World Economic Forum on the urgency of climate change.

They want leaders in government to:

  • Declare a climate emergency and take “active steps to achieve climate justice”
  • Adjust curriculum to make the ecological crisis a priority in public education
  • Do more to communicate the severity of the problem to the general public
  • Lower the voting age to 16, so that young people can have a voice in determining their future

How Gen Z can influence businesses on climate change

Local school children join Greta Thunberg's initiative on climate strike during the COP24 UN Climate Change Conference 2018 in Katowice, Poland December 14, 2018. Agencja Gazeta/Grzegorz Celejewski via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. POLAND OUT. - RC1E58ABA150

Local school children join Greta Thunberg’s initiative on climate strike during the COP24 UN Climate Change Conference 2018
Image: REUTERS/Agencja Gazeta

The time for action is now – this is the mantra being taken up by Generation Z across the world. Already this year, thousands of high school students across the world have skipped school to protest their governments’ inaction on climate change. The students were inspired by 16-year-old Swede Greta Thunberg, who started the movement by skipping school every Friday since August 2018. This is only the beginning: further demonstrations are already scheduled for the coming weeks.

Gen Z has the most to lose from the negative effects of climate change, and Thunberg made a compelling call to action at the recent COP24 conference in Katowice, Poland: “You say you love your children above all else – and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes,” she told global leaders during the climate summit. “Until you start focusing on what needs to be done rather than what is politically possible, there is no hope. We cannot solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis,” she added.

View image on Twitter

Greta Thunberg@GretaThunberg

”You are not mature enough to tell it like it is. Even that burden you leave to your children.”

Here’s my full speech in front of the UN plenary at .https://youtu.be/HzeekxtyFOY 

Despite the urgency in Greta’s speech and calls for climate protesters to get more radical, the outcomes of COP24 left much to be desired, in terms of actionable steps to cut emissions.

 While Greta’s message may have fallen on deaf ears at COP24, her appeal to global business leaders at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, holds more promise. As scholars in social innovation, we are interested in understanding how youth activism can transform the business sector, by aligning sustainable business models with a meaningful purpose and positive impact on the environment. MORE
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