The youth climate movement has created a new sense of urgency. Adults, including politicians, must now focus on plotting a safer course
This Friday’s school strike, which adults around the world have been asked to join, is the largest mobilisation yet attempted by the youth climate movement launched last year by the Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg. As such, it is an event of international significance. History shows not only that social change is possible, even when the interests ranged against it are formidable, but that peaceful protest is among the most effective ways to bring it about. The campaigns against slavery, for female suffrage and for workers’ and civil rights, as well as the independence movements of former colonies including India, all harnessed new forms of civic participation and activism to the cause of progress.
Movements on behalf of people who lack voting rights, of course, have little choice but to try to exercise influence outside the ballot box. As adults in democracies, we have become used to making our political choices in elections, with only a small minority in most countries actively involved in parties or campaigning. That does not mean political action should end there. And except for 16- and 17-year-olds in a handful of countries, children cannot vote. If they want their voices to be heard they must seek other means – such as a school strike.