Greta Thunberg is set to speak in New York today as over 4,500 strikes are planned across 150 countries in the largest ever protest over the climate crisis
Today, millions of people will abandon schools and workplaces to take part in the largest ever global strike over the climate crisis. Protests are planned in 150 countries, with Greta Thunberg and other youth activists leading the charge in New York.
The strikes mark the start of a week of action, bringing international attention to the environmental emergency. “What I’m telling you to do now is act,” Thunberg told crowds in Washington earlier this week, “because no one is too small to make a difference.”
Led by youth activists in New York, the strike has three core demands: no fossil fuels, support for communities at the frontline of the crisis, and holding polluters accountable. Taking place on the second anniversary of the deadly Hurricane Maria – which devastated Dominica, the US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico – the NYC action will include speeches from the likes of Thunberg, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, and Jaden and Willow Smith. Of course, there’s also plenty of strikes happening outside of the US – you can use Fridays for Future’s interactive map to find out what’s happening near you.
Ahead of joining demonstrations in London, here’s Dazed’s guide to why you need to take part in today’s strike.
THE AMAZON IS ON FIRE
Last month, record-breaking fires captured global attention as they tore through the Amazon rainforest. In the first 26 days of August, the forest lost 430 square miles due to fires – an area equivalent to the size of Hong Kong – and it’s still burning to this day. The blazes destroying the earth’s lungs are in no way natural; it’s been widely acknowledged that human interference by way of deforestation – burning forests to clear the land for agriculture – is to blame, most of it illegal. Research suggests that if deforestation continues, 40 per cent of the Amazon could be gone by 2050 – with fewer trees comes higher levels of carbon dioxide, AKA global warming.
ANIMALS ARE DYING
Since 1970, humanity has wiped out 60 per cent of animal populations through consumption of food and resources. Experts warn that this fucked up statistic is more than just “losing the wonders of nature”, the damage is “actually now jeopardising the future of people”. A 2018 study starkly contrasted the size of the human population with the extent of its damage, revealing that humans make up just 0.01 per cent of all living things, but have destroyed 83 per cent of wild mammals.
School students in Delhi have taken to the streets today to demand government action on #climatechange.
— Youth Ki Awaaz 🌈 (@YouthKiAwaaz) September 20, 2019
PEOPLE ARE BREATHING POLLUTED AIR
Two million Londoners – including 400,000 children – are living in areas which exceed legal limits for air pollution. Earlier this week, Kuala Lumpur was found to have the most polluted air on the planet, with scientists warning that exposure to toxic haze could lead to 36,000 premature deaths in south east Asia. In November 2018, thick grey smog blanketed Delhi as pollution levels reached 20 times the World Health Organisation’s recommended limit. More than four in every ten Americans live in an area with unhealthy air quality. While countries are seemingly resistant to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, cutting air pollution could make a huge difference in the fight against climate change.
INSTITUTIONS NEED TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY
Given just 100 corporations are responsible for 70 per cent of global emissions, it’s imperative that institutions answer for their role in the climate crisis. If employees go on mass strike, it will hopefully encourage big businesses to lead the way when it comes to changing behaviour in order to save our planet.
INNOCENT PEOPLE ARE SUFFERING
18.8 million people were displaced from their homes due to weather-related disasters in 2017 alone, with the majority of displacements happening in countries who contribute the least to the climate crisis. Despite the lion’s share of the damage being done in places like the US and the UK, “the poorest and most vulnerable will be hit first and worst” with those in tropical countries suffering the most extreme temperature changes. Until the countries using the most resources face up to the climate emergency, innocent people will continue to suffer at their hands.
THE CRISIS IS FUCKING UP OUR MENTAL HEALTH
As well as air pollution increasing our chances of developing psychiatric disorders, according to researchers, “tackling climate change could be the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century”. ‘Eco-anxiety’ and ‘climate grief’ are growing concerns, with symptoms including feelings of distress and anger, panic attacks, obsessive thinking, loss of appetite, and insomnia. One person who has been open about her climate-related mental health struggles is Greta Thunberg. “When I was depressed, I didn’t really see any point in living,” the teen activist told Dazed in May, “because we’re going to die anyway. I know a lot of people feel that way, that they don’t matter and they can’t do anything about the climate crisis, and that they just feel worried and scared. The best medicine against that concern and sadness is to do something about it, to try to make a change.”
YOUNG PEOPLE DESERVE A FUTURE
A recent report by YouGov made official what we already know: young people are more concerned about the environment than ever. From school strikes to sit-ins, young people are leading the global movement when it comes to raising awareness and demanding action for the climate crisis, because it’s their future they’re fighting for. As one youth striker told us in our A Future World documentary: “We can decide our own future. But we do need people in parliament to listen to us.”