Student Activists Plan Multiple Global Climate Strikes

Student Activists Plan Multiple Global Climate Strikes

October 11, 2021

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Fridays for Future is back as students across the world ramp up their demands for action on climate change.

Inspired by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, Fridays for Future returns Oct. 22 to call for a global climate strike. The youth movement has organized 15 global strikes since late 2018, three months after Thunberg began her "Skolstrejk för klimatet" — school strike for climate.

The Oct. 22 strike will be part two of the Sept. 24 #UprootTheSystem strike, when Fridays for Future expected more than 1,100 strikes in 78 countries. German activists led the charge with nearly 400 strikes scheduled. The United States had the second largest number of strikes planned, with 114 on the calendar. Following Thunberg's example, students skip school or walk out.

Climate Anxiety and Social Justice Shape Demands

According to a survey carried out by researchers at the University of Bath, nearly half of global youth (45%) reported experiencing "climate anxiety and distress," which impacted their daily lives. A full 75% said that "the future is frightening."

The majority of young people surveyed also said they believe governments are not doing enough to address climate change (64%) and that they are "betraying me and/or future generations" as a result (58%). This survey polled 10,000 young people (ages 16-25) from across 10 countries.

The list of demands that the latest climate strikes level at global leaders include drastically cutting emissions, divesting from fossil fuels, and producing plans to achieve net-zero carbon emissions. Other demands include providing reparations for MAPA (most affected peoples and areas), distributing COVID-19 vaccines equitably, and removing intellectual property restrictions related to COVID-19 technologies.

Fridays for Future considers these steps to be part of repaying the "climate debt" that the Global North owes the Global South. Though responsible for a disproportionate amount of historic emissions, the Global North has avoided many of the worst impacts of industrialization and extreme weather. The strike calls for "anti-racist climate reparations," the cancellation of debts caused by extreme weather events, and the protection of climate refugees under international law.

Youth Increasingly Desperate for Climate Action

This fall's strikes strategically align with last month's United Nations General Assembly meeting and next month's UN Climate Change Conference, which will be held in Scotland. The September strike also occurred just days ahead of important federal elections in Germany.

Climate anxiety has reached a new pitch in Germany in recent months. Increasingly desperate protests include blocking autobahns, setting luxury cars on fire, and refusing to eat. Beginning Aug. 30, six young Germans who consider themselves part of "the last generation which has a chance to halt climate change," went on a hunger strike. The group said they were prepared to starve to death. The hunger strike ended in late September after 27 days and no response from politicians.

Unimpressed with the climate policies of their country's main political parties, these activists do not believe that Germany's Green party is green enough. True to Fridays for Future's chosen hashtag for recent strikes, many young Germans want to #UprootTheSystem.

In the U.S., young people have taken up Thurnberg's tradition at statehouses and college campuses. A band of teenagers has gained notoriety for gathering almost every Friday in front of the Utah State Capitol, hoping to awaken adults in general — and elected officials in particular — to the dangers of "climate chaos."

Successful protests have also been held at Harvard University, where climate activists earlier this month scored a big victory when the university announced it would divest it's endowment from fossil fuel investments.


Feature Image: Erik McGregor / Contributor / LightRocket / Getty Images

College students around the world are mobilizing around climate change. Discover the latest news and tips for how to fight climate change in college. College students today are more passionate about the environment than ever. Discover the value of a green degree and learn how to chart a sustainable career. College campuses are political hot spots. Students are more political — and more politically divided — than ever, but together push for progressive reforms.