Last Friday saw thousands of concerned young people and adults in over 100 countries take to the streets and demand action on climate change. After a period of relative silence following the Paris agreement, calls for climate action are back and louder than ever.
Global mass movements like the Youth Strike for Climate and Extinction Rebellion are reshaping the narrative around climate action, putting stories of children and their climate concern at the heart of the issue. With the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report giving us approximately 12 years to act to avert climate change catastrophe, the tone of urgency is clearer than ever – systemic action is needed if we are to avoid climate extinction.
Children for Intergenerational Justice
Largely inspired by the Friday school strikes of young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, thousands of children took to the streets of London to demand climate action. Central London, a space usually devoid of children and families on school days, was filled with young people of all ages and their adult supporters demanding action for a living planet. While many cities had organised smaller strikes of their own, I encountered groups of young people who had travelled from all over the country to come to London and protest at the heart of power. For many, this movement is their political awakening, with this march being the first they ever attend. Other strikers were more politically active, with some listing childhoods marked by anxiety-inducing political events as the reason they are protesting.
The young, newly-made activists I spoke to were of different backgrounds and had different political views but were unanimous in their message – governments must act on the demands of the generation who will bear the brunt of climate change inaction. The time for debating the science is up, now is the time for climate action.
With the children back in school, it is up to us as guardians of the coming generations to take their demands for climate action to practice. Rather than relegate this clearheaded, profound, and engaging vision to placards and chants, it is up to us all to make change happen.
As development practitioners, our unique line of work offers us endless possibilities to be change-makers, starting with the way we design and research projects and working our way through implementation and evaluation. We have the ability to turn slogans into action, and the responsibility to influence societies in ways many can’t. As calls for climate justice will only become louder throughout the year, with a world-wide Extinction Rebellion and a UN Climate Action Summit in September 2019, we must take a clear stance and show that inaction is no longer an option. I know I am.