Young people get mobilised for the climate with Greta Thunberg

It was the most surreal international news story of late: 15-year-old Greta Thunberg, a Swedish activist, lecturing an audience of heads of state at the COP24 conference, highlighting their lack of political courage in the face of urgent climate concerns. Since then, her movement “Fridays for Future” has taken off, mobilising tens of thousands of young people around the globe each week.

Greta Thunberg and the butterfly effect

Greta Thunberg’s story is a resolutely modern one. The story of one person’s initiative going viral through the magic of the Internet and winning over the world…

It all began in the summer of 2018 in Sweden: the 15-year-old schoolgirl, scandalised by political inertia in the face of climate change, began a school strike all by herself sitting in front of the Swedish parliament each Friday to urge her country’s political leaders to take action.  Her youthful face, good-girl plaits, perseverance and determination quickly took the Internet by storm, attracting the attention of environmental activist groups. It was by invitation from the NGO “Climate Justice Now” that she was given the opportunity to address the COP 24 conference.

No more playing around with the climate!

Fifteen-year olds do not engage in political doublespeak. And the least we can say is that this outspoken young girl certainly speaks her mind! “You are not mature enough to tell it like is,” she asserted to an audience of dumbfounded leaders. “You say you love your children above all else, and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes.” Her conclusion, “Change is coming, whether you like it or not. The real power belongs to the people,” resonated like a wake-up call. Greta, at 15, conjures up an unorthodox, hope-inspiring image, that of a kid who reverses the roles and blows the final whistle on the big league players.

First “strikes for climate”

This resounding coup, largely relayed by the media and social networks, has irrevocably thrust Greta Thunberg and her combat into the limelight. Better still, she has become the new face of the climate for an entire generation of teenagers, the first generation to be directly affected by the consequences of global warming. Following in Greta’s footsteps, tens of thousands of them have already skipped classes on a Friday to join the school strike movement initiated by Greta – “Fridays for Future.” In Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Australia and Canada, to name but a few, they march, placard in hand, demanding concrete actions for the climate. Like their leader, they do not mince words: “When I grow up, I would like to be alive” or “And one, and two, and three degrees, it’s a crime against humanity”. To date, fifty or so countries are involved in the movement.

The latest show of force took place on 15 March with the first-ever worldwide general “strike for climate,” called by the ubiquitous Greta. The movement seems to be spreading in other circles, including teachers, researchers and media personalities – the climate has finally entered the public debate. For Greta Thunberg and other young people, this is already a great victory.