LAST Friday, an unconfirmed number of students in Bukidnon trekked 12 kilometers to join other teenagers in what has become an international movement calling for action against climate change. A photo shared by 350.org (@350 on Twitter) shows them walking around noon and later gathering in a gymnasium, their handlettered placards held in front of them. Another photo, shared by 350’s East Asia office, shows a similar gathering in General Santos City, where about a dozen students stood in a roadside line and held letters that spelled out “Act for Climate.”
Would you allow or encourage your teenagers to join them?
Seven months ago, when she was 15, Greta Thunberg began this movement when she walked out of school and held the first #ClimateStrike by herself in front of the Swedish Parliament. This is no longer a solo undertaking. As of March 15, she and other young climate activists have organized or inspired some 2,000 #SchoolStrikeForClimate and #FridaysForFuture events in more than 100 countries. A few parliamentarians have even nominated Thunberg for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.
Not surprisingly, some adults have lashed out at Thunberg and her peers, and tried to dismiss their efforts as an excuse to skip school. Part of me wishes teenagers didn’t have to worry about being in the midst of the sixth mass extinction or the absence of climate justice, and would relish instead the particular pains and joys of teenage life. But I also can’t help but be proud that so many young people are demanding that corporations and governments use renewable energy more, eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, and reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.
To critics who have asked her to stay in school instead of holding protests every Friday, Thunberg has answered, “Why should I be studying for a future that soon will be no more, when no one is doing anything whatsoever to save that future?” And during the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting last January, she urged business leaders and policymakers to work toward “a wide public awareness and understanding of our rapidly disappearing carbon budget that should and must become a new global currency and the very heart of present and future economics.”
What’s the carbon budget? It’s what the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) defines as the amount of carbon dioxide emissions that can be released without raising global temperature by more than two degrees Celsius above late 18th century or pre-industrial levels. In its latest report last October, the IPCC said that total human-caused CO2 emissions need to drop by 45 percent from 2010 levels in the