Thunberg stopped going to school and sat down in front of the Swedish Parliament. She was striking against the lack of action against the climate crisis. Her initiative very quickly went global and reached thousands of other young students across the world. Today, more than 4,175 strikes are taking place according to the #FridayForFuture website.
Their message is straightforward: they want politicians to fight climate change to guarantee a safe future for the younger generations. Greta was able to involve not only her peers, but all generations, in the call for tackling the climate crisis, thanks to this existential narrative.
Young people’s marches echo the protests of the late sixties in Europe and bring politics back to the streets. Social media have been instrumental in spreading Greta’s messages and increasing the visibility of the other strikes. The movements’ expectations are not technical: they reject excuses and want tangible results. This is how every speech from Greta, her meetings and the protests across Europe have all contributed to building a public pressure that is now producing its first results.
In the past ten months, climate change and environmental protection have become two of the most important issues for European voters and had an impact on the overall rhetoric during the campaign for the European elections. Mainstream parties are taking the importance of more ambitious climate policies more seriously. Environmental protection is now a ctopic that cuts across the political spectrum. This gives a strong climate mandate for future EU leaders. And there is no shortage of tasks as the European institutions are expected to implement a new political agenda, successfully lead the diplomatic commitment to taking the Paris Agreement forward and incorporate climate into all policies.
A new generation has become involved in politics by striking for climate. Their demands call for a radical transformation of our society, while our policymakers tend to defend the status quo. When the economic crisis hit the world in 2008, an unlimited amount of political energy and credibility was spent on maintaining the institutions as they were, including the banks. The demands of climate strikers are more difficult to achieve because they require a transformation. But whether we want it or not, climate will transform our societies: climate will increase inequalities and political instability. Either we succeed in controlling it, or we will allow ourselves to be driven over a cliff.
The energy triggered by the climate crisis will not die out if ignored. There is an incredible momentum for climate action, with equally massive hopes and opportunities. Now we need action.