Since the fall of 2018, there has been a growing movement among schoolchildren across Europe to speak out about the threat that climate change poses to their own future. Greta Thunberg, then a ninth grader from Sweden, stopped attending school in order to protest in front of the Swedish parliament calling for the government to comply by the terms of the Paris Agreement and lower emissions. Armed with a sign reading Skolstrejk för klimatet (school strike for the climate), she sat outside the building during school hours every day from August 20 until the general election on September 9. After the election, she continued to strike, but only on Fridays.
Greta’s Friday strikes, which entail missing school in order to protest for greater government action in response to climate change, have been copied around the world. The strikes are often billed as “Fridays for Future.” Students from around the world have been organizing in groups to show their support for the work that Greta began and add their voices. A map of registered events shows how the Friday actions are scheduled or have taken place in Australia, the UK, Germany, Finland, Sweden, the U.S., Canada, and the Cayman Islands. Other protests have been held in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Switzerland as well. Large coordinated action is planned in the UK for Friday February 15. Around 30 towns and cities are estimated to take part in the walkout from school on that day.
In Belgium, Anuna De Wever has been helping to organize the marches. She and her friend, Kyra Gantois, posted a video calling for a protest at the beginning of January and drew a crowd of almost 3000. There have been several marches on Thursdays and over weekends throughout the beginning of 2019. The marches have been growing so large, that traffic in some Belgian cities has ground to a standstill as a result. A march in Brussels recently drew a crowd of 35,000. The country’s environment minister, Joke Schauvliege, was forced to resign after statements she made implying that the protests were set-up and the students were being directed by unnamed powers.
Plans are being made for a global strike for the future on March 15. This strike is expected to be particularly large in the United States, with solidarity strikes in Australia, Europe, and other countries. Many of these strikes are being arranged locally by young teens, particularly young women, across the country.