This Friday, March 15, tens of thousands of the world’s students will strike for climate in 80 different countries. This is predicted to be the largest global environmental protest in history. It was all ignited by Greta Thunberg, a 15-year-old Swedish student, last summer. Thunberg has become a world-renown climate activist after speaking at the United Nations Climate Conference in Poland and the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
She has shamed the world’s leaders by calling out their lack of action on the climate crisis. Her brutal honesty about the catastrophic threat of climate change has inspired climate activists around the world.
“Our house is on fire. I am here to say, our house is on fire. According to the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), we are less than 12 years away from not being able to undo our mistakes. In that time, unprecedented changes in all aspects of society need to have taken place, including a reduction of our CO2 emissions by at least 50%,” Thunberg said at last year’s conference.
“We have not come here to beg world leaders to care. You have ignored us in the past and you will ignore us again,” Thunberg continued. “We have run out of excuses and we are running out of time. We have come here to let you know that change is coming, whether you like it or not.”
Des Moines-area students are joining the global Youth Climate Strike at the Iowa State Capitol at noon on Friday. Just as Thunberg kicked off the Swedish strike, the Des Moines strike was organized by another teenager; Lydia Pesek, a 14-year-old 8th grader at an Ankeny middle school. Pesek said she was inspired by Thunberg after watching her speak on climate. She admitted she organized the Des Moines strike with a little help from her mom. Pesek recruited speakers and used social media to build support for the local Youth Climate Strike.
Asked about her goals, Pesek hopes the strike will raise awareness of the climate crisis and other environmental issues, build support for the Green New Deal and declare climate a national emergency. Pesek like Thunberg is a courageous climate champion.
There are climate strikes planned at both Iowa State and the University of Iowa as well as Des Moines.
Last August, Thunberg kicked off this movement when she decided to skip school every Friday as a strike for climate. For the last 8 months, she has been sitting on the sidewalk every Friday in front of the Swedish Parliament. Sitting with her sign “skolstrejk för klimatet” (school strike for climate) enduring the sun, rain, snow and ice, she has persevered.
Thunberg said she was inspired by the Florida Parkland students who have championed gun control.
“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 recalled. “The first day, I sat alone from about 8.30 am 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.”
In Thunberg’s speech at the Poland climate meeting, she warned of what we will tell our children.
“In the year 2078, I will celebrate my 75th birthday. If I have children maybe they will spend that day with me. Maybe they will ask me about you. Maybe they will ask why you didn’t do anything while there still was time to act. You say you love your children above all else, and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes.”
Thunberg repeated that theme at her Davos’ event. “We owe it to the young people to give them hope,” she said. “But I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.”
One of the speakers at the Des Moines’ event will be another Ankeny resident who has been “ringing the bell for climate.” Since December, Matthew Bailey has been participating in a global climate movement #ringthebellforclimate every Friday at 2 minutes to noon. Ringing bells at 2 minutes to noon is a direct reference to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists famous Doomsday Clock, which is now set at 2 minutes to midnight. It draws the connection between the threat posed by nuclear war and the catastrophic effects of climate change.
Des Moines Climate Strike
Friday, March 15-at noon
Iowa State Capitol-West Stage
by Rick Smith