Girls in Action
So far this year, tens of thousands of high school–age students in Australia, England, Belgium, Germany, and Sweden have boycotted class and protested against climate change. Some of the most dramatic protests have occurred in Belgium. For the past four Thursdays, mass walkouts by students have taken place, and at the heart of those actions is a 17-year-old called Anuna De Wever.
It’s shocking, De Wever said, that adults should have to be reminded by high school students that they’re making decisions that will shape their entire lives. “Your political games, they’re very funny and all, but you’re the influences of our future,” she told BuzzFeed News. She said the protests, now in their fifth week and drawing tens of thousands in cities across Belgium, have given her a voice that’s “better than voting.”
“We really need to do something — the younger generation understand it more,” De Wever told BuzzFeed News. “We are called young and naive, but maybe being naive is what we need right now. We can look at the planet without being locked in the system.” De Wever was inspired to act after seeing the video of another teenager, Greta Thunberg from Sweden.
Thunberg was 15 when she launched a solitary protest last August by boycotting school every Friday and picketing in front of the Swedish Parliament to demand the country meet obligations under the Paris climate accords.
Though women often suffer disproportionately during natural disasters compared to men, and are most likely to be hurt the worst by climate change, it seems to be men who are making the political and economic decisions regarding climate change issues.
Every week since December, 13-year-old Alexandria Villasenor has made a pilgrimage to the United Nations Headquarters demanding action on climate change. She is one of a cadre of young, fierce and mostly female activists behind the “school strikes for climate” movement. On March 15, with the support of some of the world’s biggest environmental groups, tens of thousands of kids in at least two dozen countries and nearly 30 U.S. states plan to skip school to protest.
“My generation is really upset.” The deal struck at COP24, the U.N. climate meeting in December, was insufficient, she says. “We’re not going to let them . . . hand us down a broken planet.”
Her activism includes staying up all night talking to Thunberg and other kids from Australia, Uganda, the U.K. They are kindred spirits, Internet-savvy teenage girls who can recite the results of the latest U.N. climate report and take pride in seeing through what Alexandria calls “the veil of money and B.S.” that seems to stall so many adults.
These young women are learning to use the internet for positive action and are connecting with other like-minded women around the world. They will a force to be reckoned with sooner than we think. Like next month. And I want to join them. https://www.youthclimatestrikeus.org/