Tens of thousands of students across Africa, Asia and Europe skipped classes on Friday in a mass effort to save the plant. Protesters are demanding that world leaders gathering at a U.N. climate summit adopt urgent measures to avert an environmental catastrophe.
Inspired by the 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, protests are planned in about 150 countries to call on governments to take immediate action to limit the harmful effects of manmade climate change.
The protests kicked off in the Pacific islands – some of the nations most threatened by rising sea levels – and Australia, where social media posts showed huge demonstrations around the country, from the big coastal cities of Melbourne and Sydney to outback towns such as Alice Springs.
“The oceans are rising and so are we,” read one sign held by a protester wearing school uniform in Melbourne. Another sign, carried by a student in Sydney, read: “We didn’t light it, but we’re trying to fight it.”
Organizers said demonstrations would take different forms around the world, but all aim to promote awareness of climate change and demand political action to curb contributing factors.
In Nairobi, Kenya, protesters in Kenya were specifically demanding an end to government plans to build new coal power plants. But throughout Africa, urgent calls are being made to increase renewable energy sources, while reducing deforestation as well as high levels plastic and other waste.
“I am from a slum, the second largest slum in Kenya, it’s called Mathare. If you have ever visited there, we have garbage everywhere, people have destroyed it,” said Anthem Republic, an area poet and rapper. “I think we should take this personally, I am trying to think about the future, what will happen to my kids. How will I answer them if we lose our rivers and mountains? We should take it personally to avoid our future shame.”
Another protester in Nairobi, Sarah Elaine Nyamburu, says part of the solution in Africa is in Africans returning to the traditional ways of the past.
“I strongly believe as Africans, before western culture came in, our people took care of the environment. It is our time to remind our children that we took care of the environment even before we knew about climate change. And it is important for us to know, most importantly, to take care of the environment, take care of the wildlife. Just as those before us told us to respect the earth just as much as we respect one another.”
The climate change strikes will culminate in New York when Thunberg, who has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for her climate activism, will spearhead a rally at the United Nations headquarters.
Thunberg noted the “huge crowd” in Sydney in a tweet, which she said would set the standard as the strikes moved across Asia, Europe and Africa.