Hundreds of thousands of students in more than 100 countries are expected to skip school Friday in a global call for world leaders to take swift action to combat the climate crisis.
The youth movement, called Fridays for Future, was sparked by 16-year-old Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg, who went on strike from school last year after Sweden experienced its hottest summer on record. For weeks Thunberg sat outside her country’s parliament, holding a sign that read, “School strike for climate,” and demanding that local politicians enact policies in line with the goals of the 2015 Paris Climate Accord. She passed out flyers that read, “I am doing this because you adults are shitting on my future,” The Guardian reported.
Her actions inspired other school strikes in places like the United Kingdom and Australia. And Friday’s worldwide protest is shaping up to be a massive mobilization. As of Thursday evening, more than 1,700 events have been scheduled in at least 112 countries, according to event organizers.
“Let’s change history,” Thunberg wrote in a Twitter post on Thursday. “And let’s never stop for as long as it takes.”
More than 150 strikes have been scheduled in the United States, from New York City and San Francisco to Honolulu and Anchorage, Alaska. Isra Hirsi, the daughter of freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), is among the three youth leaders organizing events in the U.S.
“That’s what we’re trying to do: Change the conversation not only about things like the Green New Deal but so much more,” she told Grist, referring to the sweeping climate plan outlined in a resolution introduced in Congress last month by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.). “Obviously, one strike isn’t going to change everything, but this isn’t the last strike.”
In October the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the leading United Nations consortium of researchers studying anthropogenic climate change, issued a report warning that humans are running out of time to stave off potentially irreversible climate change. It found that without sweeping cuts to global greenhouse gas emissions, the world stands little chance of keeping the planet’s average temperature from warming 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels — the goal of the Paris agreement.
Thunberg mentioned the findings during an impassioned plea in January to world leaders gathered for the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
“I am here to say our house is on fire,” she said. “I don’t want your hope. … I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act. I want you to act as if you would in a crisis.”
On Wednesday three Norwegian lawmakers nominated Thunberg for the Nobel Peace Prize. One of them, Freddy André Øvstegård, told Norwegian news outlet VG that she has “launched a mass movement that I see as a major contribution to peace.”