Led By Our Youth, the Climate Narrative Has Changed

Today, it seems that the scariest thing for rich white men is the activism of school children, whose decision to strike for the climate has energised the climate movement into an exciting new phase. The young activists, from Greta Thunberg in Sweden whose Fridays For Future school strikes call out governments, to the survivors of typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines who are continuously fighting for climate justice, have all spoken truth to power and united the world on one of the most critical issues of our time. A note of hope and optimism has entered what is still a titanic struggle.

The forces pushing back and resisting are all too familiar. The lack of meaningful and radical action from our governments, the denial of the existence of a climate crisis, the monied interests that drive our overconsumption and reliance on fossil fuels are all trying to prevent radical and effective solutions to the climate emergency – these are the usual antagonists in a story that seeks change for the common good. Thirst for profit over people has proven to be a tool in the arsenal of the elite in preventing positive change to happen. This is true in our struggle for planetary survival.

The wave of climate strikes led by young people has other parts of society joining in and following their lead—trade unions, human rights organisations and others. This is the kind of joined up action that leads to real change. And it’s why we as the Fight Inequality Alliance support the climate strikes—both because it is large scale people power that will lead to action on this, and because the crisis of inequality is deeply interconnected with the climate emergency.

Those who are most affected by climate change – developing countries, Indigenous Peoples, people of color, the poor and the marginalized—are also those who have least contributed to the climate crisis.

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A study released earlier this year has shown that climate change significantly increased global inequality. Those who are most affected by climate change – developing countries, Indigenous Peoples, people of color, the poor and the marginalized – are also those who have least contributed to the climate crisis. They are also the people on the frontlines of the inequality crisis and have been on the frontlines of the struggles fighting back. It is also the same concentration of power and wealth amongst elites that is driving climate change as it is the inequality crisis. We are now living in a world where clean air and a livable temperature has become a luxury of the elite.

Make no mistake – the elite in industrialized countries have caused massive suffering to people and the planet. The poor are more likely to suffer from extreme weather, famine, water shortages, plagues and pandemics caused by climate change. A report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) showed that if global temperatures rise more than 1.5°C by the end of the century, poor countries will likely face deadly situations, including the destruction of entire communities and millions of premature deaths. But we don’t have to wait until the end of the century as this is already a reality in many places. We know the science, and people around the world are already living this reality every day.

My message to the young who are leading movements and battering down the resistance and inaction we face to fight for a habitable planet: Thank you for leading us. We know this is an unprecedented fight, but together we are powerful, and together we will win.

The climate strikes that you organized will force the hands of governments and institutions around the world to listen and take meaningful action to prevent more climate catastrophe from happening. Radical and systemic change is our goal. There must be no room for climate deniers at the table whose wealth enables them to live in comfort while the rest of us are left to face calamities. Change is coming whether they are ready or not. Thank you for raising your collective voice to get our governments and institutions to create a future where a decent and dignified life will not be a privilege of a few elite. Thank you for showing the world that activism knows no age and everyone can use their power for good.

And to us adults, it is our responsibility to support the young climate activists in every possible way. A new generation of activists – millions of them – are being born right before our very eyes. That’s why on September 20, we are joining them in the streets to strike for a future that is livable and just for all.

Governments and institutions must know that business as usual is over. We cannot let the greed of the few get away with ending humanity as we know it. We only have a few years left, we must use it wisely and follow the lead of the youth all over the world in order to save ourselves.

Jenny Ricks is the Global Convenor of the Fight Inequality Alliance.

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