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Young climate protesters urge leaders to be brave

by Chris Langdon

“It’s hot, it’s hot” shouted a noisy crowd of 35,000 school and university students marching in freezing Brussels on January 24th.

There’s a carnival spirit to the demos that have sprung up across Europe this January.

“Who doesn’t jump approves coal!” shouted 5,000 German students bouncing up and down in unison. They were taking part in the Fridays for Future march in Berlin on January 25.

But it’s no joke. The students participating in the new wave of climate protests are deadly serious about the consequence of climate change for their generation. Demos are scheduled on a weekly basis into February.

Fossil Free Deutschland video posted on Twitter

One Swedish school student, Greta Thunberg took the message directly to decision-makers. She travelled by train to Davos. There she told business leaders on January 25: “I want you to act like your house is on fire. I want you to feel the fear that I feel.”

Like her fellow marchers. Greta strongly believes that climate change isn’t being taken seriously enough. She didn’t pull her punches. She told leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos that their financial success has come “with at an unthinkable price tag”. “And on climate change we have to acknowledge that we have failed. All political movements in their present form have done so. The media have failed to create broad public awareness.”

She added: “Homo Sapiens has not failed.. We can fix this.” Greta received awkward applause from the billionaires and CEOs in one session she spoke at in Davos. Many of them may have walked out with heads a little lower.

Greta is one of thousands of school students in Europe and in Australia on the march. They are digitally connected. They were inspired by Facebook climate change groups at home and in other countries. They are members of the best ever-educated generation. They are the children and grandchildren of today’s leaders.

They see themselves, rightly, as the leaders of tomorrow. They are demanding that current politicians and business executives uphold their promises on tackling climate change – or step aside.

TtU was in Brussels on 24 January and joined 35,000 Belgian school children and students who skipped class to march through the city past the EU institutions.

It was passionate, noisy and well organised. The banners were witty: “Be part of the solution, not the pollution” read one. “Dinosaurs thought they had time too” read another.

All those we spoke to were highly committed. The students are angry at the leadership failure in Belgium. They demand that the ‘higher ups’ be courageous. Leaders must take the tough – and potentially unpopular – decisions on climate change. They say that addressing climate change is more important than attending school.

The next generation don’t like what they see from today’s top down, hierarchical leadership. Raina, at the rally in Brussels with her boyfriend Robby and a huge banner, said she wants politicians to be braver. If they are not, then, as Simon, a university student, told us: “We can do it ourselves.”

At the heart of Thinking the Unthinkable is our strong focus on the Next Generations. We believe they must be involved in decision-making. The digitally aware and connected Generation Z may not be out of school yet. But they are already making their mark on policy-making.

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