SUN 23 - 2 - 2020
Date: Sep 26, 2019
Source: The Daily Star
No ‘planet B’: Youth around world take a stand
Rubina Abu Zeinab-Chahine
“There is no planet B” is one of the most creative and compelling global climate strike signs that was made last Friday. Sept. 20, 2019, might be recognized as the grandest protest ever in the battle demanding action on climate change. Motivated by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, and on the eve of the Climate Action Summit, youth around the globe went on strike to protest against those responsible and those who are failing to do what’s necessary to act on their climate promises.

“Over 4 million on climate strike today. In 163 countries. And counting ... This is just the beginning. Change is coming - like it or not,” Thunberg tweeted.

The global Fridays for Future movement was joined by young adult climate activists, local groups, people from companies such as Amazon and Google, and many others who believe the world is overdue for serious action on climate change.

A worldwide cooperative media effort of over 250 news outlets came together to reinforce the reportage of the issue of climate change under the hashtag #FridaysForFuture, covering more than 3,600 events around the globe.

The movement for climate strikes is only over a year old. It began with Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old, who started striking alone in front of the Swedish Parliament building in Stockholm every Friday in order to focus attention on climate change. In the year since, hundreds of thousands of youth have joined the movement expressing frustration about the lack of climate action.

Now, a huge student protest movement led by teenage girls and young women is sweeping the globe, starting from Europe and breaking through in the United States, with 250,000 the estimated number of participants in the New York protest.

Young people who helped to organize the previous New York strike indicated that the protest was merely a stepping stone, a catalyst for future action that aimed to make responsible parties accountable for the crisis.

This was the third worldwide youth-run climate strike of the year. Friday’s rally was the largest so far and seemed to succeed.

The streets of important cities and towns across the globe were forced shut by crowds holding bold signs. It was easily comparable to the protests of the March For Our Lives movement planned by the Parkland teens in the aftermath of the shootout at their U.S. school that killed 17 students.

Thunberg pleaded with lawmakers at the international climate conference in Poland last year, and last week on Sept. 18 at the U.S. Congress, emphasizing the need to push for action, the lack of time and the importance of evidence-based solutions. She said: “This is the moment in history we need to be wide awake. Dreams cannot stand in the way of telling it like it is, especially not now. ... Unite behind the science,” highlighting the need to push for urgent changes to legislation.

On Sept. 21 this year, the International Day of Peace proclaimed by the U.N. General Assembly as a day dedicated to enhancing peace ideals both within and among all countries of the world, took a step further toward combating climate change to promote peace among communities.

With the Youth Climate Summit happening on the same day and the Climate Action Summit occurring shortly after, on Sept. 23, the International Day of Peace’s 2019 theme “Climate Action for Peace” coincided with the global climate protests.

The theme focused on the need to combat climate change as a means of preserving and promoting worldwide peace.

According to the United Nations, climate change poses a clear threat to global peace and safety. Millions of people risk being displaced from their homes in search for safety because of natural disasters caused by climate change.

While millions across the world this year are taking action for peace in diverse and meaningful ways including climate change, the Youth Climate Summit was held on Sept. 21 as part of the events that led up to the U.N. secretary-general’s Climate Action Summit. From the streets to the U.N. halls, the point of this platform has been to engage young leaders aged 18 to 29 who are pushing for action on climate change, with the decision-makers, to present their concerns and solutions on the issue.

The movement Friday represented the perceptions, ambitions and perseverance of young people. Understanding this youth-led intervention will help fill a gap in knowledge as to why and how young people get involved in these movements.

Hearing young people’s voices not only gives us a deeper understanding of what motivates them, but also of what they envision for themselves, their worries, concerns, hopes and dreams.

No one doubts the key role that young people perform when they are valued, promoted and endorsed as partners in the process of change. This can assist societies to transform and maintain peace. Such inspirational grass-roots activities can address long-lasting problems with fruitful alternatives.

Young people are the centerpiece of the transformative phenomenon, whether as peace builders or climate change activists, should they assume their role in finding the “missing peace.”

Rubina Abu Zeinab-Chahine is executive director at the Hariri Foundation for Sustainable Human Development.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 25, 2019, on page 2.

The views and opinions of authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the Arab Network for the Study of Democracy
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