Students across the world took part again in school strikes for climate action on Friday, one week after almost 1.5 million people joined a global green protest.
From the Indian state of Assam to New York City, Reykjavik to Ghana, students marched in at least 357 cities in 68 countries demanding immediate environmental action, according to the Fridays for Future website.
“We are here/We are loud/Because you are stealing our future,” chanted hundreds of protesters marching in Hamburg, one of the cities with the highest turnout. Videos uploaded to Twitter showed that Germany and Norway saw some of the biggest gatherings, with thousands of young protesters marching in several cities, including Oslo, Trondheim, Berlin and Cologne.
The action was predictably smaller than last week’s, which involved students in over 2,000 cities in 122 countries – making it the biggest environmental demonstration in history, according to climate campaigning organisation 350.org. In some cities, only small groups or isolated protesters rallied on Friday, such as in Uganda and New York City. Small groups also protested in London and Paris.
This is because while the strikes take place every Friday on a voluntary basis, the movement also organizes larger global action – with the next global event planned for 12 April.
The strikes grew from a Swedish 16-year-old girl’s lone protest. Greta Thunberg sat in front of the Swedish parliament every school day for three weeks in August 2018, to protest against the lack of action on climate change. Her posts on Instagram and Twitter explaining what she was doing soon went viral.
“I painted the sign on a piece of wood and, for the flyers, wrote down some facts I thought everyone should know. And then I took my bike to the parliament and just sat there,” she told The Guardian.
“The first day, I sat alone from about 8.30am to 3 pm – the regular school day. And then on the second day, people started joining me. After that, there were people there all the time.”
She said her protests were inspired by students from the Parkland school in Florida, who walked out of their classes to protest against US gun laws.
From 8 September, Greta decided to strike every Friday until the Swedish government provided credible policies to keep its commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions in line with the 2015 Paris agreement.
On 14 March, one day before an the record-breaking global action, Thunberg was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Some politicians and other public figures have criticised the students for walking out of school.
Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, said in February that the students were increasing teachers’ workloads and wasted lesson time.
In Australia, New South Wales Education Minister Rob Stokes warned that students would be punished if they rallied during class time.
“Ok. We hear you,” replied Greta Thunberg in a tweet. “And we don’t care. Your statement belongs in a museum.”
She had explained her position more clearly in January, when she spoke at the World Economic Forum in Davos: “Some say we should not engage in activism. Instead we should leave everything to our politicians and just vote for a change instead. But what do we do when there is no political will? What do we do when the politics needed are nowhere in sight?”
And just as thousands of students marched in Germany, leaked documents seen by the website Euractiv revealed that countries including Germany, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic have refused to specifically link EU climate action with the 1.5°C objective, hindering the block’s progress on climate change.
Friday 29 March 2019 will be week 32 of Thunberg’s strike.