Tens of thousands of students from more than 60 communities across the United Kingdom skipped class on Friday to join the global youth-led #schoolstrike4climate, calling on world leaders to take bolder steps to eradicate fossil fuels and combat the climate crisis.
“It’s sort of scary to think about that when I’m older there might not be a North Pole or maybe no rainforest or anything.”
Speaking to Sky News in London’s Parliament Square on Friday, 12-year-old Theo said he is striking “because there are people in that building over there, going in week in and week out, and completely declining the fact that our world is dying out.”
Theo added that he thinks U.K. legislators, who are failing to take necessary steps to address the crisis, “are completely obsessed…with money” and “are completely disregarding…the world.”
Pointing to rising temperatures and visible changes in the global climate, Theo’s 11-year-old friend said he joined the strike because “it’s sort of scary to think about that when I’m older there might not be a North Pole or maybe no rainforest or anything.”
The striking students carried signs that warned “our generation will suffer,” and asked, “the climate is changing, why aren’t we?” Chants across the country ranged from “whose streets, our streets,” and “we want change,” to “fuck Theresa May”—the Tory prime minister who criticized the demonstrations via a spokesperson.
Some students spontaneously blocked Downing Street—which houses the prime minister’s residence and office—and police even began arresting some strikers, according to posts on social media by the environmental group Extinction Rebellion and other observers:
Endorsed by the National Association of Head Teachers as well as Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn, the U.K. climate strike follows several recent mass mobilizations of young people across the globe.
“I’ve always had a strong fascination with the environment, and I’ve always been aware of climate change and sustainable living, but when I saw thousands of kids around the world striking for the cause it inspired me to start my own,” 17-year-old Anna Taylor, a co-founder of the U.K. Student Climate Network, the group coordinating the country’s strike, told the New York Times.
“Youth voices are too often left out of the discussion when it comes to climate change.”
—Jake Woodier, U.K. Youth Climate Coalition
“While we’re failing to deliver the changes young people need, we can hardly blame them for taking action themselves. Education has today been flipped on its head. The young are teaching the old, and we should pay attention,” Greenpeace U.K. executive director John Sauven said in a statement to the Guardian.
“Young people know that their lives are going to be changed dramatically by the impacts of climate change. The risks that older people hope they might dodge are the problems the young will inherit,” Sauven added. “And the longer the young wait for action to be taken, the harder it will be for them in future.”
Jake Woodier, a member of the U.K. Youth Climate Coalition, noted that “youth voices are too often left out of the discussion when it comes to climate change.” As he told the Times, “Our current trajectory is completely incompatible with a clean, safe environment not only for ourselves, but future generations as well.”
That sentiment was echoed by Greta Thunberg—a 16-year-old from Sweden whose protests outside her country’s parliament last year inspired the global movement—who discussed the U.K. demonstrations on “Good Morning Britain” Friday:
As Thunberg put it, “Why should we be studying for a future that soon might not exist anymore?”