‘What we stand for is what we stand on,’ read one of the signs, as children across the world rallied behind 16-year-old climate change activist Greta Thurnberg. In India, amid the election fever children held placards saying, ‘Abki baar climate change pe sarkar’ (this time it’s a government for climate change), clearly sending out a strong message to the political fraternity.
Schoolchildren in several cities across India skipped school and hit the streets to highlight the imminent crisis facing the world as part of a movement called Friday for Future. Powerful messages emerged from different parts of the country at a time when the national electoral narrative is restricted to nationalism.
Head of Friday For Future movement in India, 17-year-old Vidit Baya, told The Guardian, ‘Today young people from all over India are striking for a sustainable future. We are telling our politicians that our lives are more important than the economy. You talk about jobs and better living conditions when you yourself are not ready to change for a sustainable future.’
Young climate warriors of India came from metropolitan cities like Bengaluru, Mumbai, Hyderabad, and Gurugram. Smaller cities like Bhavnagar in Gujarat, Ambikapur in Chhattisgarh, and Udaipur in Rajasthan saw their own protests. Even villages in Bihar and Tamil Nadu voiced their concern over the planet’s fate.
Social media was abuzz with images of global solidarity for a green world. Huge crowds gathered from Prague to Lisbon, Warsaw to Sydney, and 100 other countries.
The Washington Post is calling it an unprecedented moment, saying ‘This is something quite unique — schoolchildren have never before instigated such far-reaching protests on a global scale.’
Calling themselves the ‘voiceless future of humanity’ The Global Coordination group of youth led climate strike recently wrote an open letter to seek support from counterparts from all the continents and announce 15 March as a day when kids from across the globe would speak in one voice, to treat climate crisis as an emergency.
Words used in the letter were hard-hitting, “It (climate change) is the biggest threat in human history and we will not accept the world’s decision-makers’ inaction that threatens our entire civilisation. We will not accept a life in fear and devastation.”
The girl who started the moment and mobilised children across the world, Greta Thurnberg, told The Guardian, “Think we should be at school? Today’s climate strike is the biggest lesson of all. These strikes are happening today because politicians have failed us. We’ve seen years of negotiations, pathetic deals on climate change, fossil fuel companies being given free rein to carve open our lands, drill beneath our soils and burn away our futures for their profit. We’ve seen fracking, deep sea drilling and coal mining continue. Politicians have known the truth about climate change and they’ve willingly handed over our future to profiteers whose search for quick cash threatens our very existence.’
Greta who has now been nominated for Nobel Peace Prize, silently started the movement from outside the Swedish Parliament, on 20 August 2018, when she skipped school to sit outside the corridors of power in Stockholm. She said nothing, just sat there holding placards saying, “I am doing this because you adults are shitting on my future’
Greta recently made headlines in India when she directly hit out at Prime Minister Modi and asked him to act or be called a villain. Though Modi did not pay heed to her message, many children in India did.
In the past Health Issues India has highlighted the reasons why India can’t be a silent spectator and needs to act against climate change.
But sadly, on the day of the protests in India, not a single politician spoke a word for climate change, no famous personality stood in solidarity with the children marching on the streets. Is this an indication of our misplaced priorities? Hopefully, our children will wake up the adults from their slumber some day.