‘The kids are alright’: A look into the youth climate strikes

“Ah, kids these days. Back in my time things were different…” Generational superiority is a tale as old as time. It is both a social phenomenon and a long-standing cliché. It is a moral stand-point that is passed through one generation to the next, as the teenagers become the adults, and the rebels become the critics.

It seems that this is always the case, there’s always something about the current generation that doesn’t sit well with the one before it. Their hairstyles are too messy, or too puffy (I’m looking at you 1980s perms), their music is too loud, and their views are too radical. Take the millennials for example, or as some crudely describe them, ‘a generation of snowflakes’.  This is perhaps the result of a specific generation shifting the patterns, holding themselves and other people accountable to their actions. According to an article by Forbes, millennials opt for more socially responsible companies and are willing to pay more for a product that comes from a sustainable brand.

But this article isn’t about that generation and their social behaviours. It’s about the one after it, Generation Z, or as some call them, ‘the climate kids’, who are taking the world by storm with their environmental activism.  This, however, is not to exclude other generations or discredit their involvement. The movement has been supported by people of all ages, who joined in on the global strikes taking place in more than 120 countries. That said, the origins of the strikes can be traced back to the youth, which has been leading these marches and demanding that political elites take action.

This all began with 15-year-old Greta Thunberg protesting during school hours outside the Swedish Parliament building in August, coining the slogan ‘Fridays For Future’. Her inspiration came from the protests led by students last year following the tragic school shooting in Florida, USA. This resulted in a national school walkout, as students took matters in their own hands demanding more severe gun control policies.

Ever since then, both Greta and ‘Fridays 4 Future’ have come a long way, inspiring students across the globe to take action. Thunberg addressed the United Nations Climate Change conference this past December and was invited to talk in the World Economic Forum where she boldly denounced world leaders for their inaction. The 16 year-old Nobel Peace Prize nominee powerfully stated: “I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic… and act as if the house was on fire. Because it is. ”

Image by David Holt

As the youth have resorted to taking the streets every Friday during school hours to demand necessary change, they have faced a mixture of opposition and support. While some political leaders have shaken their head in dismay at students walking out of classrooms, others have justified their concerns for the future of the planet they are bound to inherit. Theresa May criticised the strikes, stating that schoolchildren should be focussing on their studies in order to lead the change as future leaders. However, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that only 11 years remain before the effects of global warming are irreversible. The urgency of the report and the severe consequences it entails leaves a constrained time-frame where actions can be taken to address the issue. It is understandable, then, that schoolchildren feel the need to make their voices heard. After all, this is their future, and by the time they are in positions of power, it will be too late to do something about it. Then again, their youth is their power, and their voices are their weapons, and maybe instead of scrutinising them for not prioritising school work over climate destruction, we should take a note out of their textbooks.

So what can really be said about this generation? The truth is, their views are not radical, but logical, their music playing in the streets as they march in protest is just loud enough so they can be heard, and their hairstyles are just fine. As world leaders then continue to deny the future generations of a safe and sustainable future, the young strikers will continue to fill the streets demanding to see actions. And maybe, just maybe, this time the older generations will not look down at them in dismay and will march alongside them instead, paving the way to a sustainable future.

But the question still remains; since political leaders have failed to listen to the experts and the scientists, will they maybe listen to their children?

You can join the next global climate march this Friday 12th April. Find out more about locations and times here.

If you would like to know more visit the UK Student Climate Network site here.


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