The image of three climate protesters in Germany, standing at a gallows on blocks of ice in the shadow of Berlin’s iconic Brandenburg Gate, may have been the most searing of the many thousands of images that coursed through online channels, after an estimated four million youth and their supporters took part in at least 2,500 #ClimateStrike events around the world Friday.
The strike acted as a curtain-raiser for the today’s United Nations climate summit in New York City—and for another round of climate protests coming up this Friday, September 27. (Click here for the latest strike map.)
“This is what people power looks like. We will rise to the challenge. We will hold those who are the most responsible for this crisis accountable, and we will make the world leaders act. We can and we will,” #FridaysForFuture founder Greta Thunberg told protesters at New York’s Battery Park.
“And if you belong to that small group of people who feel threatened by us, then we have some very bad news for you, because this is only the beginning. Change is coming whether they like it or not.”
“You had a future, and so should we,” New York demonstrators chanted. “We vote next.”
“Even though we ourselves aren’t sick, the planet which we live on is, and we are protesting and fighting for it,” said 15-year-old Siobhan Sutton, one of more than 300,000 protesters in more than 100 cities in Australia.
“We want to do our part,” said local organizer Fardeen Barakzai in Kabul, Afghanistan, where the Toronto Star says an armoured personnel carrier was deployed to protect about 100 marchers. “We as the youth of our country know the problem of climate change. We know war can kill a group of people….The problem in Afghanistan is our leaders are fighting for power, but the real power is in nature.”
“Oceans are rising and so are we,” said a sign in London, UK. “Stop the Global Pyromania,” read one banner in Berlin. “This planet is getting hotter than my imaginary boyfriend,” said another placard in Nairobi.
“I have the feeling that politicians are often just [focused on] the next vote,” said 25-year-old student Jakob Lochner in Berlin. “If you look around, there are so many people on the street; there is kind of a social tipping point.”
And as more than 500 rallies played out across Germany—including the one that produced the image at the Brandenburg gate—Chancellor Angela Merkel “announced a wide-ranging package aimed at getting Germany back on track to meet its climate targets,” the Washington Post reports. “Berlin has pledged to cut its emissions by 55% from 1990 levels by 2030. The package includes more than US$60 billion in investment in such areas as trains, electric vehicles, and subsidies for green buildings, according to German media.”
Climate protesters gathered for a teach-in in Toronto, staged a die-in in downtown Edmonton, rallied at city hall in Calgary, and met with British Columbia Premier John Horgan in Vancouver. “When you think about how little action there is for such a great crisis, it makes me feel small and minuscule compared to how big a challenge it is,” student Sehaj Hundal told Horgan, who’s been accused of greenwashing the climate-busting methane emissions associated with his province’s impending liquefied natural gas (LNG) boom.
Across the country, local media reported on student marches and rallies in Regina, Winnipeg, Thunder Bay, London, Burlington, Hamilton, Peterborough, Halifax, Fredericton, Charlottetown, and Happy Valley-Goose Bay. And all of that activity was just a start, with most of the strike action in Canada coming up this Friday, September 27, and Thunberg scheduled to attend a massive rally in Montreal.
The day before the first round of strikes, brand strategist Sarah Lazarovic penned an opinion piece for the Globe and Mail, arguing that businesses should open the door for their employees to get in on the action.
“For the past year, the climate crisis has been brought to the fore of public consciousness by young people. Many of them miss class to do so. All of them have replaced the carefree abandon of their teen years with the impossibly heavy obligations of fighting for our collective future,” she wrote.
“Among many adults there’s a desire to help, but a responsibility to work. Companies that facilitate their employees in meeting these desires (with flexible work hours and support) will reap the benefits of happier staff. And maybe even a habitable planet.”