At the time I’m writing this, students all over the UK participated in a strike for climate change, and in light of these protests, I wanted to share what it felt like to be a part of these protests last week. I live in the Netherlands, and we held our protest on Thursday the 7th of February. It was completely organized by teens in the Hague and at least 15,000 students showed up. The idea behind this protest was to strike against school in order to show our support to the students protesting in Belgium, as well as letting our government know that we care about the environment and that sometimes the environment should come before our education. Climate change is something that is continuously getting worse, and we need to do something now before it’s too late.
WHAT IS THE YOUTH FOR CLIMATE CHANGE PROTEST?
This movement started with one fifteen-year-old girl, Greta Thunberg, and has turned into a full-blown global movement with students striking for climate change all over the world. I think the work she is doing is so incredibly important and has definitely caused an impact. People are listening to us. Already, in the Netherlands, the leaders of the Youth For Climate Change have been in contact with Mark Rutte, the current Prime Minister, and have been on many news sites. These climate change protests are organized by students around the world in order to spread awareness on the issue and prove that the youth are actually interested in the environment.
Currently, there are protests in Germany, Belgium, Australia, the UK, Sweden, and Switzerland, with many other countries joining in the future. The protests in Belgium continue for the fourth week in a row. The Netherlands will join as there will be another protest within the next few weeks. In Belgium, the combined number of students protesting in only one week was up to 30,000 and shows no signs of stopping. Furthermore, a global strike has been set for March 15, in which other countries such as Canada, Uganda, and Colombia will participate. People are saying that every continent will have multiple climate strikes. Hopefully, this will really rattle politicians and we will be able to convey how dire this situation really is and rally for change. Scientists have already come up with solutions, and have sent them to multiple different governments. We aren't waiting for solutions--we already have them. We just need governments to implement them. Yes, they might be expensive, but a dying planet is going to cost much more.
Seeing all those students rally together for the purpose of climate change was really powerful to me and even getting on the train to the Hague, seeing it filled with students with poster was really inspiring. This was my first protest, and I honestly had no idea what to expect. What ended up happening was that we all met in this giant park and waited there for about an hour until everyone had arrived. This sounds boring but it was actually super interesting because there were a stage and giant speakers playing music. People held up signs and danced. There were countless news vans and we spent a while protesting in front of a giant police station. Eventually, we started moving. I expected the walk to take a few hours and for it to be hectic, but it was all extremely well-organized and peaceful. We walked past the houses of representatives and the Senate. Random people opened up their windows and clapped for us, something I found really empowering.
Over 10 000 schoolchildren on strike today in The Hague! And tens of thousands in Belgium! School strike tomorrow as usual.#climatestrike #fridaysforfuture #schoolstrike4climate pic.twitter.com/P5T7yg2DN0— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) February 7, 2019
WHY I DID IT:
I went to the Hague, alongside thousands of other students, to show politicians and the media that we do care about climate change and we will hold them accountable. I think that the Netherlands is doing quite well with regards to their own climate laws and how they’re going to reduce their carbon emissions, with many political leaders vowing to continue to keep climate change on the forefront of political discussions. With regards to the Paris Agreement, many countries are nowhere near on track to meet the goals outlined in the agreement and in their own legislation. This needs to change, and we wanted to let the world know that.
I felt it was important to not only support Greta Thunberg, but the other hundreds of thousands of students protesting, and I wanted to make sure that I was a part of such an important movement. I wanted to take part in letting the world know that we would not let politicians take away our futures.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
There are currently protests for climate change happening all over the world. Even here in the Netherlands, another one is planned for a few weeks. These movements seem to be getting bigger, and if there is one in your area, I highly suggest you go! This is a very important movement to be a part of. Many school districts and politicians around the world have supported this movement and urged students to attend. If you can't go, that's totally fine! I definitely suggest making smaller changes around you as these can also definitely have an impact on the environment. Small changes include using less plastic water bottles, decreasing waste, reducing plastic bag usage, and maybe eating less meat or dairy. There are lots of options and while they may seem small, they definitely have an impact. You could also try to find local organizations that want to help the environment. I know that in my area there is a foundation that aims to plant trees in areas struggling with deforestation. You could raise money and donate it to foundations such as these, or volunteer at these organizations. Spreading the word and signing petitions is also a great way to help.