On Friday 15th March, school students across the world will strike, calling for widespread climate action. It is perhaps the greatest display of unity shown by younger generations in recent years, symbolic of a capsized society where young people are forced to take the initiative instead of stagnant, apathetic adult leaders. The global act of defiance against their schools is minimal in comparison to the older generations’ neglect to the impending ramifications of decades of denial. The protest will be the second in a planned series of monthly strikes, following the lead of the Swedish 16-year-old Greta Thunberg who sits outside the Swedish parliament every Friday demanding climate action. Indeed, those striking have much to complain about.
In 2015, in the wake of the Paris climate summit, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists’ “Doomsday Clock” was moved to 3 minutes before midnight, the closest it had been since the late 1970s, during Reagan’s increased pressure on the Soviet Union. In justifying the move, scientists cited increases in the number of nuclear powers, and the continual denial of world leaders towards climate change. In 2018, the clock was shifted further yet, to 2 minutes before midnight, with climate change cited as the single gravest threat to humanity. The only other time we have been this close to apocalypse was in 1953, after the United States and the Soviet Union tested their first hydrogen bombs. Perhaps the similarities of overzealous nuclear powers pushing themselves into oblivion is a good metaphor for superpower nations’ attitudes to global warming.
There are surprising parallels between leaders’ actions towards nuclear tensions and towards climate change. Both situations pose terrifying threats to humankind. Both are, in effect, endorsed by many world leaders who refuse to act to reduce the impact of the situations, yet somehow climate change is only considered a priority threat by less than half of Americans. Furthermore, polls suggest 40% of Americans refuse to believe humanity is the cause of climate change, a view justified by the election and policies of Donald Trump (only 34% see humans as the main reason). The view that climate change is a matter of opinion, bastardised into party politics, is farcical. Right wing politicians attempt to justify their neglect by citing the market harm climate impact regulation would cause. They claim ignorance to their ineptitude by imposing insubstantial carbon taxes. Corporate taxes may give fiscal incentives to large corporations, but do nothing to address the issue of societal neglect of the responsibility of the individual.
These climate strikes are the second walkouts organised by school students in recent years, the first organised in the US a year ago by March for Our Lives, demanded tighter gun laws in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting that killed seventeen students. Perhaps we can interpret such widespread youth action as a glimmer of hope in an otherwise bleak future. Perhaps the generation accused of apathy and screen addiction are using their new online presence to call for meaningful change. Perhaps this is the beginning of a society that values their existence over their wallets. Regardless, it is time for governments to take notice of their soon-to-be electorate and protect their futures.
Featured image by the author