— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) March 15, 2019
On Friday, children in some 100 countries are walking out of school to push for global action on climate change. Over the last four months, hundreds of thousands of young people from many countries participated in demonstrations against climate change. This is something quite unique — schoolchildren have never before instigated such far-reaching protests on a global scale.
The phenomenon ramped up with weekly school strikes, mainly in Western Europe, the United States and Australia, but also in low- and middle-income countries like Colombia, India and Uganda. The March 15 global strike reportedly involves more than 100 countries and over 1,600 separate events. In an open letter, the global coordination group of the movement demanded that all countries should meet their commitments outlined in the Paris Agreement, and demanded justice for all future victims of climate change.
In September, a 15-year-old Swedish student named Greta Thunberg launched a climate change strike in front of the Swedish parliament building, just prior to the national elections. Thunberg soon became a great source of inspiration for strike participants worldwide and as just been nominated for the Nobel peace prize.
Based on prior studies, we believe there’s a simple explanation: In addition to concern for nature, schoolchildren readily identify with someone their own age.
This wouldn’t be the first time that a single act of civil disobedience helps launch a broad and sweeping social movement. Although facing threats of a completely different magnitude, Rosa Parks is one such iconic example. Her risky decision not to move to the back of an Alabama bus in 1955 helped launch the Montgomery bus boycott, an important catalyst in the U.S. civil rights movement.
Many broad-based social movements have evolved without cooperation with established organizations. In fact, people who seek social change may tend to see these organizations as too entrenched in the ruling political order.
Today’s young climate strikers appears to be organizing themselves in a grassroots, bottom-up manner, focusing on building support within their school classes and other social networks.
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