Over 1.4 million young students in over 300 cities across the world took to the streets in the first ever global climate strike on March 15. Their message was clear: ‘Take concrete action, save our future.’
Galvanised by teen climate change activist Greta Thunberg, the schoolgirl now nominated for a Nobel peace prize, the “Fridays For Future” climate strikes reached a global crescendo on March 15.
In France alone, 1,95,000 schoolchildren gathered in over 110 cities, while 1,50,000 students marched through Montreal’s streets, and thousands others joined in Milan, Mexico, Cape Town. In New York City, children performed a die-in at the UN HQ, and in Australia, they marched against the “Fossil Fools”.
Students also gathered in Seoul, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Brazil, Iran and Nepal, while New Zealand’s PM supported the teen strike. India’s youth weren’t far behind as students in over 15 cities skipped classes from Allahabad to Hyderabad, in protest. They took to the streets in Shillong, Jamui (Bihar), Kolkata and Mumbai. Over 500 students walked in Delhi, some of them demanding a ban on coal. Seventeen-year-old Vidit Baya from Udaipur said: “In India, no one talks about climate change. You don’t see it on the news or in the papers or hear about it from government…”
But what is India’s report card for climate action so far? It’s a mixed bag, as of now. According to a 2017 WHO report, 14 of the 20 most polluted cities across the world are in India.
Environmentalists were also up in arms after the Haryana government opened up the Aravalli hills forest for mining and the real estate sector. It took action from the Supreme Court to halt the move.
However, there is good news too. India is on track as far as reducing emissions (20-25% of GDP) and shifting to renewable energy (175GW by 2020) is concerned. But, the UN has said, it is far from increasing its forest cover to create carbon sinks.
If Friday’s protests are any indication, then children across the world believe they can’t stand by and do nothing. According to one of the student manifestos, they want governments to declare climate emergency, align economy with principles of climate justice, teach climate crisis in classrooms, and lower the voting age to 16 to include them in policy making. But are the adults listening?