Something quite extraordinary happened last Friday. I didn’t fully realise it until I saw photos of the global climate strike online later in the day. And we have the 16-year old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg to thank for this. Her Friday’s for Future strikes that she started last year have seen a worldwide response this weekend. All around the world millions of people gathered in unity to demand action on climate change. To demand a future. Not just for our current generation, but for generations yet to come.
And as I saw the photos of people marching in the streets of India, Afghanistan, Australia, the US, Berlin, London, Cape Town and so many more other cities, I felt tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. Not from despair as I’ve often experienced in recent years, but from hope.
The thing is, I’ve been growing ever so pessimistic about the world in these last years. All I could see was the ever-growing division between people, fuelled by the egocentric and hateful actions by politicians and powerful people all over the world.
And each time there were national demonstrations on let’s say Brexit here in the UK or gun control in the US, I became even more pessimistic. Because despite the large numbers of people joining the marches, it never made any difference. While the media always buried the news stories as fast as they could, politicians and those with the power to make adequate changes never even bothered to respond. How could I remain positive?
But when I saw the photos of the global climate strike I felt a sense of optimism again. Because all over the world people joined forces for a movement that’s so much bigger than everything else, than us. It is about our world and our legacy. While demonstrations and strikes are usually aimed at something very concrete or something that affects us directly, the current issue is rather abstract.
Yes, we can expect that if we keep carrying on like this, extreme weather changes will grow even stronger. It will have serious consequences for our food and water supplies, not to speak of an increase of natural disasters, including in places they’ve never occurred before.
But most of us who are alive today probably won’t be still around when the proverbial shit hits the fan. So, the fact that we can consider to protect future generations fills me with hope. It shows that we can still empathise and that we still care. But incredibly it took tenacious and determined school children to make a stand.
Last year Greta started to skip school once a week to demonstrate outside the Swedish parliament instead. Thousands of students all around the world followed her example from early this year. Instead of learning about the world’s history in school, they took action in an attempt to secure the world’s future. Their goal was to send out a signal. A signal to the adults who failed to listen and who failed to take responsibility. Witnessing last Friday’s events I think they succeeded. Now it’s up to all of us to help them.
They say children are the future. They might indeed literally be the world’s future.