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Thursday, October 22, 2020

Global Youth Climate Strikes are Back: Meet the Strikers

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On September 25th 2020, thousands of climate strikes will take place across the globe to demand urgent action to tackle the climate crisis. Hear from the young people that will be taking action both online and in the streets where COVID-19 regulations allow.

Last year, millions of people took to the streets to demand climate action. Politicians and the media congratulated the youth and portrayed them as beacons of hope, but inaction from these same leaders has seen little cause for celebration since. This year, the global youth climate strikes are back and with the global pandemic proving that our system cannot handle a serious crisis, now is the perfect opportunity to have a just recovery and build a better normal.

Youth climate activists from MAPA countries (Most Affected People and Areas) are sharing their first hand experiences of confronting the climate crisis in their countries and their expectations and plans for the September 25th strikes. Here are some of the powerful voices you can expect to hear from this September:

Mitzi Jonelle Tan – Manila, Philippines

I am Mitzi Jonelle Tan from Manila, Philippines, lead convener of Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines (YACAP). A vivid and constant memory I have from my childhood is having days of candle-lit dinners when we had no electricity because of typhoons hitting. I remember being scared of the huge trees being uprooted that could fall on our house anytime and the strong winds outside that were howling. In 2017, I was integrating with the Lumad indigenous people, and one of the leaders told us about how they were being displaced, harassed, and killed just for protecting their lands and the environment from extractive mining companies. The simplicity of how he said, in passing, that there is no choice but to fight back and become activists made me realise that individual lifestyle change was not enough. Since then I have been very passionate about demanding climate justice — particularly in the context of places like the Philippines, which is disproportionately impacted by the climate crisis and is always part of the top three countries most dangerous in the world for environmental defenders.

Why are you striking? 

The Philippines is the 2nd most vulnerable country to the climate crisis, yet our contribution to the global greenhouse gas emissions are minimal. With this planetary emergency, common sense would dictate that climate be at the top of the agenda and those already protecting the environment would be listened to. Instead, we have no concrete climate plans, and our environmental activists and defenders are being killed, harassed, and displaced. The wilful ignorance of world leaders is pushing us all to become climate activists, pushing us all to strike for justice. I am an activist because of my deep love for the people and the environment, a love that binds me to the movement calling for climate and social justice.

What action would you like to see on climate in 2020?

In the Philippines, we need to declare a people’s defined climate emergency and impose a moratorium on any new dirty energy projects. We then need to start developing and prioritizing research and development into renewable energy and consulting with the people, especially the workers, on how to begin our just transition. Empowering the youth and those most vulnerable with knowledge is also a key part in ensuring active citizen participation in climate policy building. We also need our national leaders to echo the voices of the youth and the environmental defenders in the international spaces to demand climate justice and that carbon majors drastically reduce their carbon dioxide emissions now. All this, and more, is needed if we want to survive.

Eyal Weintraub – Buenos Aires, Argentina

My name is Eyal Weintraub, I’m From Buenos Aires, 20 years old and one of the founders of Jóvenes por el Clima Argentina (Youth for climate Argentina). Currently, climate change does not affect me and my individual standard of living in any significant way that I am aware of, but there is a very specific reason for that. I am a white, middle class male from the capital of Argentina. I am extremely privileged. That is another of the most devastating aspects of climate change. It affects in much greater numbers those who are already socially vulnerable. Climate change hurts most those who have contributed to global warming the least. That is something extremely important to consider when we talk about climate justice. Climate justice is not only mitigating the amount of CO2 levels we produce to prevent future damage, but also to provide adaptive measures for those places where it is already being felt and reparation for those affected.

Why are you striking? 

In a country like ours where you have 50% of the population living below the poverty line it is not enough to speak in abstract about the climate crisis. It is necessary to find ways to directly relate it with the hardships and struggles that we suffer daily. I strike so that the government and corporations take direct action regarding the mitigation and adaptation of the climate crisis, before it becomes the worst crisis in the history of humankind.

What action would you like to see on climate in 2020?

If there is one thing the Coronavirus pandemic has proven, it’s that governments have the ability to initiate drastic measures to avert catastrophes when necessary. The climate crisis is just as serious as this new global pandemic and yet we are not doing what is required to lower greenhouse emissions by 50% for 2030. Hopefully we will see countries not only promise to lower emission but also effectively act on their commitments and pass from empty speeches to concrete actions.

Disha A Ravi – Bangalore, India

I’m Disha A Ravi, co-founder of Fridays For Future, India. My motivation to join climate activism came from seeing my grandparents, who are farmers, struggle with the effects of the climate crisis. At the time, I wasn’t aware that what they were experiencing was the climate crisis because climate education is non-existent where I’m from. Only when I did my research, did I find out about it. Millions of people are affected by the climate crisis every single day but no one talks about it. I wanted to change that, I wanted to make the topic a household conversation because only when we know the truth can we act on it, and we need action now because the climate crisis is happening to us now!

Why are you striking?
I’m striking because we’re living through the climate crisis. Heavy rains and lax measures taken by governments have led to millions of people being displaced because of floods, particularly in India. My house was flooded last week and there are multiple different impacts – my city is expected to run out of underground water by the end of the year. The climate crisis is our reality, we’re striking for our survival.

What action would you like to see on climate in 2020 

Aiming to stay below 1.5 C is not enough. 1.5 C is still harmful for several countries, we need to work on a just transition and a just recovery from this. We have the resources to make this happen, what we need, above anything else is political will to make it happen! 

Kevin Mtai – Eldoret,  Kenya

I am a climate activist and environmentalist from Soy, Kenya. I am the Africa Continental Co-ordinator for Earth Uprising, member of Global children’s Campaign and a Campaigner for Climate friendly food at the UN Climate Conference.

Why are you striking?

I am striking for a future for myself and my peers. We can achieve a better future than the one we face, if we immediately take action to invest heavily in renewable energy capacity and stop the burning of fossil fuels. To meet the targets set out by the Paris Agreement, we cannot afford to waste more time. The climate crisis is already having a huge impact on communities. Recently, East Africa has experienced all kinds of effects of climate change like an invasion by a desert swarm of locusts, windstorms, a severe drought, landslides and floods due to huge rainfall. If we see global temperature rise much further, the consequences will be unimaginable.

What action would you like to see on climate in 2020?

I would like to see world leaders understand and follow what science says we must do. They must believe scientists and adjust their policies accordingly. Covid-19 has shown us that politicians can treat a crisis like a crisis if they want to, and that we have the capacity to repair our earth.

Laura Verónica Muñoz – Bogotá, Colombia

I am Laura Verónica Muñoz. I am an audiovisual and multimedia communicator, and a climate activist with Fridays for Future Colombia and PactoxElClima. I have been involved in the process of adjusting the global climate youth movement to the Colombian context and more specifically in the city of Bogotá. I want people to see beyond their bubble of privilege and comfort, to be more empathetic and open their eyes to different realities within our own country. With that I hope more people will join the movement for climate action in Colombia. I am also convinced that more female representation is needed in the political, economic, scientific, business and academic spheres, to be able to build more sustainable and resilient solutions to climate change.

Why are you striking?

The climate crisis needs everyone’s action, but it also needs justice. Climate change is an environmental and social problem that, although it affects all people, does not affect them equally. Those who are feeling and will feel the impacts of the climate crisis most strongly are those who bear the least responsibility in the matter.

What action would you like to see on climate in 2020?

I would like to see a just recovery that works to close the giant gaps that exist in terms of health, education, economy and gender. Without this, there is really no climate justice because many people would continue to be left behind.

Nicole Becker – Argentina

I am 19 years old, a student, and a climate activist from Buenos Aires, Argentina. When I started to understand that climate change is a social issue, and not just an environmental one, I co-founded Jóvenes Por El Clima, a movement that talks about climate change from a Latin American and human rights perspective. In 2019, we successfully pushed to have the country declare a Climate and Ecological Emergency and to sanction the first Climate Change Law. In March 2020, I was selected as one of the Escazú Champions, with the aim of ratifying the Escazú Agreement and I spoke in the Argentine congress to demand climate action. I was also selected by the Argentine Congress as one of the most outstanding women in the country because of my role in creating the climate movement.

Why are you striking?

I am striking  because I believe this is the best way to show that there are millions of us who demand climate action, and that it is our greatest tool to raise our voice. Argentina and my entire region are on fire, and this is the future that world leaders are leaving to my generation. My country is suffering a huge economic crisis and due to Covid-19, more and more people are in a situation of poverty, so they don’t have the resources to face the impacts of the climate crisis,

What action would you like to see on climate in 2020 

In Argentina, wetlands represent 25% of our national territory, however, there is no law that regulates them. #LeydeHumedalesYa is one of our greatest demands. On the other hand, at the regional level, the most important thing is that the states commit to putting out the fires and ratifying the Escazu agreement. I hope the pandemic helps us realize that health and the human right to a healthy environment have to be a priority, so the “new normal” has to include a just recovery and a just transition away from fossil fuels.

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