South African learners joined an estimated 1 million school students – from over 100 countries around the world – who walked out of classes on Friday in a global strike, to protest against government inaction on climate change. (Watch video below.)
Signs in South Africa included “Eskom we don’t want your dirty coal” and “The climate is changing, why aren’t we?”
Meanwhile in New Zealand (just before tragedy struck at two mosques), students carried handmade signs with messages like: “Climate change is worse than Voldemort”, referring to the evil wizard in the hugely popular Harry Potter books and films.
“The oceans are rising, so are we,” read another in Sydney.
In Europe, students packed streets and squares in Paris, Madrid, Rome, Brussels and other cities for “Fridays for Future” protests.
Demonstrations also took place across the United States. In Washington, some 1,500 students rallied in front of the Capitol chanting “climate action now!” and waving homemade placards with slogans such as “Our planet, our future.”
Inspired by Nobel Peace Prize nominee Greta Thunberg
The worldwide student strike movement started in August 2018, when 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg began protesting outside her parliament on school days. She has since been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. WATCH Greta Thunberg at a TED Talk here:
Students around the world are striking today to demand action on climate change. Many were inspired by 16-year-old @GretaThunberg, who was just nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
— TED Talks (@TEDTalks) March 15, 2019
On Friday, Thunberg spoke at a Stockholm demonstration. Other rallies were held in 100 towns around Sweden.
“We have only been born into this world, we are going to have to live with this crisis our whole lives. So will our children and grandchildren and coming generations,” Thunberg said. “We are not going to accept this. We are striking because we want a future and we are going to carry on.”
South African student inspired by Greta Thunberg
In South Africa Wynberg Girls High Grade 12 student Ruby Sampson told GroundUp: “When I was 11 years old, my parents took me on a trip around Africa, and because of that, I felt first hand the dramatic effects of climate change.” Inspired by Thunberg, Sampson joined the movement and started organising Cape Town to join the global protest.
Thousands marched through central London with banners reading “The future is in our hands” and “We’re missing lessons to teach you one“.
“Education is important but climate change is more important,” 14-year old Molly Powell said.
Scientists say fossil fuel use releases greenhouse gases that trap heat and lift global temperatures, bringing more floods, droughts, heatwaves and rising sea levels.
The 2015 Paris climate conference pledge to keep the increase in global average temperatures to below 2 degrees Celsius (35 F) above pre-industrial levels requires a radical cutback in use of coal and fossil fuels.
More than 220 rallies were held in Germany. In Dusseldorf, some 2,000 school children stopped around the city, home to the headquarters of many of Germany’s largest manufacturers, reading out calls for change. “The clock is ticking and time is against us!” they shouted. “We are the last generation that can fix this.”
About 60 students protested at government house in Bangkok, holding cardboard signs to campaign against plastic. Thailand is one of the world’s worst marine plastic polluters.
The group was later invited to meet officials at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment in two weeks.
There were also demonstrations in South Korea and India. In Singapore, where strict laws regulate public assembly, young people planned a virtual campaign on social media.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern supported the strikes, saying teenagers should not wait for voting age to use their voices.
That contrasted with politicians in Australia and Britain, who rebuked them for missing lessons.
“For action on issues that they think is important, they should do that after school or on weekends,” said Dan Tehan, Australia’s education minister.
Wellington parent Alex, who marched beside his 11-year-old son, disagreed: “It’s a much better day of education. This is the greatest issue of our time.”
WATCH Pupils in South Africa strike for action against Climate Change
— Pheladi Sethusa (@pheladi_s) March 15, 2019
In New York:
— Lucky Tran (@luckytran) March 15, 2019
LOOK AT THE SIZE OF THE MARCH IN BRUSSELS!!! Young people are rising in 2052 places in 123 countries on every continents.
— Mike Hudema (@MikeHudema) March 15, 2019
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) March 15, 2019
5 reasons we stand in solidarity with #ClimateStrike:
1. It's your right to protest peacefully.
2. Future is at risk.
3. Climate justice = human rights.
4. You should act on lessons learned.
5. Change happens when we stand together.
— Amnesty International (@amnestyusa) March 15, 2019
(Written by Tom Westbrook/Reuters, Alex Fraser/Reuters and Jenni Baxter/SAPeople. Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield in Wellington, Tom Westbrook in Sydney, Sonali Paul in Melbourne and Alex Fraser in London; Additional reporting by Jane Chung and Yijin Kim in SEOUL, Aradhana Aravindan in SINGAPORE, Patpicha Tanakasempipat in BANGKOK, Thomas Escritt in BERLIN, Simon Johnson and Phil O’Connor in STOCKHOLM, Bart Biesemans in BRUSSELS, Caterina Demony in Lisbon, Marie-Louise Gumuchian in LONDON, Roberto Mignucci in ROME, and Lee Van Der Voo in WASHINGTON; Editing by Mark Heinrich, Gareth; Jones and Rosalba O’Brien)
South African youths march for action against climate change – including photos from around SA