In a never before seen phenomenon, Generation Z protested climate change in major global cities, defying socioeconomic factions. Now, legislators must act.
As average global temperatures continue to rise every year, threatening the future of our planet, it is young people who are at the forefront of the fight to protect Earth. Taking to the streets of major cities around the world, Generation Z has spurred a movement to urge legislators everywhere, across developed and developing nations, to act now. "You had a future, so should we," demonstrators demanded, pushing for rules and regulations that actively slow down global warming and tackle climate change. Organizers of the mass protests estimated turnout to be about four million in thousands of cities and towns, The New York Times reports.
Some have attributed the newly-energized movement to Swedish Nobel Peace Prize nominee, environmental activist Greta Thunberg. At just 16 years old, she is the youngest individual to be nominated for the prestigious award. She began her fight for environmental protections in August 2018, when she took time off from school in order to demonstrate outside the Swedish parliament, holding up a sign calling for stronger climate action. She told demonstrators in New York City, "Right now we are the ones who are making a difference. If no one else will take action, then we will. We demand a safe future. Is that really too much to ask?"
In New York City, the mayor's office estimated that around 60,000 people would have marched through the narrow streets of Lower Manhattan. Organizers, on the other hand, placed the total turnout at 250,000. In Berlin, police officials measured 100,000 participants. In cities like Melbourne and London, the number of attendees was fairly similar. Young people galvanized to hold protests in cities such as Mumbai, Nairobi, Manila, Kampala, and Rio de Janeiro, too. Most notably, a group of demonstrators rallied together in support of the movement in Antartica, holding signs urging lawmakers to believe in the scientific data that proves climate change is in fact real.
Now, climate and environmental activists must utilize the interest and energy the movement has generated so as to demand that lawmakers enact effective climate legislation now. This is perhaps the most crucial part of the fight, Megan Mullin, a political scientist at Duke University, suggested. "The challenge is translating something that is a global movement into a kind of concentrated political pressure that can influence government decisions," she explained. "It needs to be translated to influencing decision-makers who aren’t already convinced."
This movement is particularly special and interesting as it has spanned across borders; Young people from various socioeconomic factions have come together in support of a shared ideology, which has been rare if not never before seen. Dana Fisher, a sociologist at the University of Maryland who studies social movements, stated, "They are mobilized around an issue of consistent concern across countries and across geographic areas. It spans the developing-developed country divide. There aren’t that many issues that would unify in such a manner. And we all know the burden of climate change will fall on these kids’ shoulders when they are adults. They are acutely aware as well." While it may not be clear if there will be a future at all for these bright minds, one thing is undeniable: should there be a future, it's in good hands.