Rome — Friday, Mar. 15, hundreds of thousands of young people across the world took to the streets to join the climate strike. "We are demonstrating today for our planet and for our future. This is the place where we and those who come after us will live," Jennifer, a 16-year-old girl from Rome, the Italian capital, who opted to join the protests, told IPS.
The climate strike has become a symbol of the global movement that aims to urge governments and institutions to take serious steps to implement the Paris Agreement and save the planet.
It is a unique voice that has united over 125 countries in more than 2,000 places around the world. Protestors want to ensure that actions--which include reducing CO2 emissions, eliminating the use of plastics, promoting more sustainable agriculture--are wisely managed within the United Nations deadline of 2030. In a nutshell: take concrete action today to save the world of tomorrow.
Jennifer was following the example of Greta Thunberg, the Swedish 16-year-old girl who, without realising it, gave birth to a global movement. Indeed, this wave of youth activism began in August when Thunberg camped outside the Swedish parliament. She accused politicians of failing to uphold their commitments to fight climate change as agreed to under the Paris climate accord.
In a short time word of her civic engagement spread worldwide and the young Swedish teenager became an international celebrity who was invited to speak to climate negotiators in Poland in December, as well as to the global elites at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Thunberg has become an example for many young people across the world who have begun to organise themselves to promote similar initiatives. Her name has even been proposed to the Nobel Committee as a candidate for the Peace Prize. "We have nominated Greta because the climate threat may be one of the most important causes of war and conflict," parliamentary representative Freddy Andre Oevstegaard said. "The mass movement that she has triggered is a very contribution to peace."
Not only a responsibility of the youth
Although it was an event mostly organised by young people, some did not like the fact that adults are seemingly discharging the responsibility of caring for the planet to the youth. "Thanks to the efficiency of healthcare, those who are 60 years old today could still live for another 20 or 30 years. So it is not true that the future is 'ours alone'. The future belongs to all of us," another young protester in Rome told IPS.
Politics was not exempt from criticism.
"I think that this global 'climate strike' is important for the whole community because the environmental problem has a strong political component in it. If it is true that a lot is in the hands of individual initiatives and in the commitment of each of us, it is also true that there are mechanisms which are very complex and that can only be managed by politics," Matteo Cappello, a naturalist from Sapienza University in Rome and specialised in environmental sciences and sustainable development, told IPS. "Not only ordinary young people and not only ordinary adults: responsibility must be universally shared and it obviously must include those who manage the decision-making processes," he added.
The climate strike was embraced by a wide and varied audience in Rome. Among the mass of people, there were large numbers of teenagers and also university students, young workers, families and the elderly.
Lodovica Cattani, a graduate in Political Science who has been specialising in Arctic studies and sustainability, participated in the event not just as a citizen but also as a worker who aims to deal with these issues in her professional life.
"I am 28 years old and have been volunteering with the organisation Climate Reality Leaders for six years now, precisely because when I was in high school I could already see that global warming was becoming a problem and that we were going to see the results in the next decades to come. I felt there was need to be informed and take action," she told IPS.
"The youth who have the power to succeed"
"In my opinion, the Earth has a spirit that occasionally manifests itself when it really cannot bear any more. This time it manifested itself in the form of Greta and of these thousands of young people," Sandro, a 60-year-old farmer who came from Tarquinia, a town 100 km away from Rome, to demonstrate in the capital city, told IPS.
"I really hope that these young people will go ahead and continue to pursue their dream because it is truly in their hands. My generation is responsible for many of today's environmental disasters and often has no open-mindedness or ability to reverse this course. It is young people who have all the potential to succeed."