Fridays for Future: how the young climate movement has grown since Greta Thunberg’s lone protest

Greta Thunberg (right), Climate Activist, speaks at the opening
of the UN Climate Action Summit 2019. Credit: UN Photo/Cia Pak

By External Source
Aug 31 2020 (IPS)

At the end of her first week on strike in August 2018, Greta
Thunberg handed out flyers that
said
: “You grownups don’t give a shit about my future.”
Her appearance at the 2019 UN Climate Summit capped a year in the
spotlight for the teenage climate activist. Delegates at the summit
gave her a standing ovation, but the sound of their applause
couldn’t mask Greta Thunberg’s deep frustration.

“This is all wrong,”
she said
. “I shouldn’t be up here … yet you all come to
us young people for hope. How dare you!”

Everything from posters to
children’s picture books
have captured the inspiring example
of Thunberg’s bravery and determination. But adults, even
supportive ones, still shirk the opportunity to really pay
attention to the remarkable movement she is a part of – its
history, its present and its visions for the future.

Young climate activists today tend to perceive climate change as
the symptom of a broader systemic problem, connected to the same
economic and political roots that produce other forms of violence,
injustice and inequality, including racism. They do not advocate
making these systems sustainable. Their demand is climate justice,
and a new, more just, global system.

In doing so, they miss the significance of the last two years. The
climate strike movement has grown into a network of global
campaigns focused on systemic change to tackle the climate crisis.
In the process, young people have outgrown the mainstream
environmental movement. They don’t want recognition in the world
of today. They want a new world, and they are building it.

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System change not climate change

Why is Thunberg frustrated? For one thing, adult leaders have
applauded young activists before. In 2014, the then 25-year-old
Marshallese poet and climate campaigner
Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner
addressed the opening of the UN Climate
Summit, and delegates were in tears. In 2018, she published
a
poem
with another young indigenous activist, Aka Niviana, which
captured their disillusionment with the failing international
leadership on climate change.

We demand that the world see beyond

SUVs, ACs, their pre-package convenience

Their oil-slicked dreams, beyond the belief

That tomorrow will never happen

The celebration of Thunberg’s speech by adults in power
overlooks the oratory of Jetñil-Kijiner and others who came
before. It’s an open wound for young climate activists who hear
adults applaud them for having a voice, but continue to act as if
the catastrophe scientists warn is already here will
never come.

Certainly since 2018, the youth climate movement has outgrown
the search for applause. The environmentalist Bill McKibben
famously said that environmentalists won the argument on climate
change long ago, but need to
win the fight
.

The youth climate movement that continues to build on
Thunberg’s strike doesn’t aim to give adults hope that the
world can be saved.
They say
the world that adults knew is gone. In its place,
young people are determined to build a better one.

 

A movement of movements

This movement is run by young people, learning from young
people, and for young people. Thunberg explained that her climate
strikes were inspired by student walkouts for gun control in

Parkland, Florida
.

Those school strikes, in turn, learned from young people who had
gone before, not least the activism of young people of colour in
the US civil rights movement in the 1960s and 70s. This included
the 1966 Seattle
School Boycott
and the work of the Student Nonviolent
Coordinating Committee
(SNCC)
, founded by Ella Baker in 1960.

The young climate movement’s links to the fight against
systemic racism aren’t just tactical. Mainstream environmental
movements led by adults tend to focus on changing policies so that
the world as it currently exists can be made sustainable.

A good example is the slogan “listen to the scienceâ€,
popularised by
Extinction Rebellion
. It imagines change as a process of
pressuring politicians to improve existing economic, social and
political systems.

Young climate activists today tend to perceive climate change as
the symptom of a broader systemic problem, connected to the same
economic and political roots that produce other forms of violence,
injustice and inequality, including
racism
. They do not advocate making these systems sustainable.
Their demand is climate justice, and a new, more just, global
system.

For instance, Extinction Rebellion activist Daze Aghaji
explained in 2019
that young people are in their own, distinct
branch of Extinction Rebellion that’s distinct because young
people focus on “talking about indigenous communities… the
global south… and climate justiceâ€.

Another young activist called Aneesa Khan said at a
demonstration ahead of the
2018 UN climate summit
that this new wave of climate activism
is being led by the people who bear the brunt of climate change –
or will in the future. These are young people, women, indigenous
people, people who suffer under racist oppression or who live in
places that were conquered and colonised by European empires.
Essentially, those who bear historical traumas and continue to be
impoverished by an unfair global economy.

Khan said:

From environment defenders in Latin America to the Standing Rock
Sioux in the US to the anti-coal activists in the Philippines and
right here in Poland, we’re here, we’re rising, we’re
resisting, we’re fighting, but where are you?

In research with young climate activists, we have found that
many young people are
inspired by Greta Thunberg
, and by other icons of the movement.
But they also tend to share her sense of the problem – that
“our biosphere is being sacrificed so that rich people in
countries like mine can live in luxury.â€

On the second anniversary of Thunberg’s first strike, young
climate activists were probably not looking at 2018 as the start of
their movement. They will have placed her strike in broad sweep of
other movements for justice, past and present, and they will be
planning for the future. Most of all, they will be sharing with
other young people their visions of a new world.

Benjamin
Bowman
, Lecturer in Politics,
Manchester Metropolitan University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a
Creative Commons license. Read the
original article
.

The post
Fridays for Future: how the young climate movement has grown since
Greta Thunberg’s lone protest
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Fridays for Future: how the young climate movement has grown
since Greta Thunberg’s lone protest