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This Month in Climate Change History: Global Week for Future Strikes


In September of 2019, Swedish youth climate activist Greta Thunberg delivered speeches in New York and Montreal: “If no one else will take action, then we will. We demand a safe future. Is that really too much to ask?” The week of September 20 that year saw one of the largest climate change action strikes in world history. What is known as the Global Week for Future Climate Strikes was part of the larger grassroots School Strike for Climate Movement, also called Fridays for the Future, which was inspired and started by Thunberg when she began to walk out of schools on Fridays to protest lack of action.

The first wave on Friday, September 20, was record-breaking in turnout. Across 150 countries, from developing to developed nations in both the global North and South, protestors, primarily young people, joined together in massive demonstrations demanding urgent environmental policy action from governments, politicians, and international institutions. These students set out with the goal of highlighting the gravity of the climate crisis, and they called for the elder generations to make an effort to ensure that today’s young generation are promised an equal and fulfilling future. They expressed a loss of hope, trust, and faith in the world’s leaders. Moreover, protestors declared that carbon dioxide emissions be cut and restricted to move away from an extractive economy that relies on fossil fuels and towards more sustainable practices such as implementing renewable energy.

The world had never seen so many children and teenagers come together across such a wide array of locations for such a cause. That week, the first round of strikes deliberately occurred just three days before the 2019 UN Climate Summit to garner attention and enact political pressure on world leaders and policymakers. Activists estimated that they gathered around 4 million people globally. Protests began in Melbourne, marking Australia's largest historical climate action movement. Throughout the day on September 20th, people assembled in a multitude of countries–from small nations facing severe climate change impacts to major cities in great power nations–until people were fighting for climate action on every continent. There was even a small protest comprised of researchers on Antarctica. Although an exact number is difficult to confirm, it is estimated that over 4,000 events occurred that first day.

Another series of global strikes followed on September 27. This second wave saw “record numbers of protestors” worldwide, including 1 million people gathered in Italy. New Zealand protestors delivered a letter to their Parliament calling for a declaration of climate emergency, and in Montreal, where Thunberg spoke, schools canceled classes. The Global Week for Future climate strikes amounted to over 7 million protestors as a whole. Fast forward about three years later, Fridays for the Future have started up once again since the COP26 Climate Summit in Scotland 2021, and protests continue on all seven continents where young activists call for climate reparations, decolonization, anti-capitalism, and antiglobalization


Citations

  1. Barclay, E., & Resnick, B. (2019, September 20). How big was the global climate strike? 4 million people, activists estimate. Vox. Retrieved September 10, 2022, from https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2019/9/20/20876143/climate-strike-2019-september-20-crowd-estimate

  2. Gayle, D. (2022, March 25). Fridays for future school climate strikes resume across the world. The Guardian. Retrieved September 14, 2022, from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/mar/25/fridays-for-future-school-climate-strikes-resume

  3. Kaplan, S., Lumpkin, L., & Dennis, B. (2019, September 21). 'we will make them hear us': Millions of youths around the World Strike for Action. The Washington Post. Retrieved September 10, 2022, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2019/09/20/millions-youth-around-world-are-striking-friday-climate-action/

  4. Neuman, S., & Chappell, B. (2019, September 20). Young people lead millions to protest global inaction on climate change. NPR. Retrieved September 10, 2022, from https://www.npr.org/2019/09/20/762629200/mass-protests-in-australia-kick-off-global-climate-strike-ahead-of-u-n-summit

  5. Sengupta, S. (2019, September 20). Protesting climate change, young people take to streets in a global strike. The New York Times. Retrieved September 10, 2022, from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/20/climate/global-climate-strike.html

  6. Taylor, M., & Bartlett, J. (2019, September 27). Fresh wave of climate strikes takes place around the world. The Guardian. Retrieved September 14, 2022, from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/sep/27/fresh-wave-of-climate-strikes-take-place-around-the-world


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