UK organizers of a student climate change protest are getting their first taste of the skepticism that has met a growing ecosystem of student-led strikes crisscrossing Europe and Australia — many of which are being led by young girls.
All of the organizers point to the diminutive pigtail-toting Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg as their inspiration. The 16-year-old took the world by storm last year with her weekly sit-ins outside Sweden’s Parliament. Thunberg said she won’t stop until the country is in line with the Paris Agreement, an accord that aims to limit a global temperature rise this century to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Her rising star got her an invite to Davos, which Thunberg took a 32-hour train to from her home in Sweden. Once there, she excoriated a room full of executives, telling them they were to blame for the climate crisis.”I told them that they belong to that group of people who are most responsible and that the future of humankind rests in their hands, and they didn’t know how to react,” she told CNN in January.
While Greta Thunberg’s protest had the power to spread much faster thanks to the internet, Rootes “suspects the shelf life” of contemporary, viral movements might also be “much shorter.”
As other issues consume the attention of UK lawmakers — not least Britain’s pending withdrawal from the European Union — could Friday’s march be at risk of being ignored? “Now is time to hold the protests because the government is focused on the economy and housing prices and stuff — environment policy is low on their priority list,” Taylor said. “Politicians are too concerned with hard or soft Brexit and are forgetting the Earth is dying.”
If not politicians, Taylor is hopeful that other young people will be inspired by the strike. “For so many years I was passionate about the environment, but I did not know anyone else,” Taylor said.
“I thought I was the only one worried about the planet and then, suddenly, there are other kids taking the chance to change things — and I am sure it will empower other kids to do the same.”