Thousands of students and climate activists on Friday took to the streets of Australia and other Asia-Pacific countries for a global general strike, CNN reported. The protestors urged the world leaders who will arrive in New York for a United Nations Climate Action Summit next week to take urgent measures to stop an environmental catastrophe.
The protests were inspired by the 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. She will lead the rally at the United Nations headquarters in New York City.
Leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn attended the rally in central London and called for stringent environmental standards across the globe to prevent the import of products made overseas through harmful processes. “Green industrial revolution [a new version of the green deal that promotes increased investment in areas like sustainable energy] can bring about, I believe, 400,000 decent, high-quality jobs,” Corbyn said, according to The Guardian. “And with that we also have cleaner air, we have better quality of life, and we deal with many of the health inequalities that exist in this country.”
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, who also attended the rally, told those who gathered that they were “making history”. She also pointed out that the Parliament had passed a motion in May, declaring a climate emergency and called it the “biggest social justice issue of our time”.
In New York, around 1.1 million students were allowed to skip school to attend the strikes as the city declared that it would not penalise students for it, provided they had permission from parents, CNN reported. “New York City stands with our young people. They’re our conscience,” tweeted New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.
A marching band led the protests in the east African country of Tanzania. Sadrach Nirere, a coordinator for Friday for Future in Uganda said it was time for the youth to “rise up and add our voices together”. Several schools, universities, and local government officials, among others attended the rally.
In a tweet, the activist, who has been nominated for a Nobel prize for her climate activism, pointed at the “huge crowd” in Sydney. “Incredible pictures as Australia’s gathering for the climate strike,” Thunberg said earlier in the day. “This is the huge crowd building up in Sydney. Australia is setting the standard! Its bedtime in New York...so please share as many pictures as you can as the strikes move across Asia to Europe and Africa,” she added.
The protests were also for the first time organised in India. Around 25 school children handed out flyers at bus stations and held placards that said “Save Our Planet, Save Our World” in Kolkata. “This is the only planet we have,” one of the protesting children told Reuters. “We wanted to stand for it before we went to school for the day.”
A volunteer for Friday for Future, Mumbai, a group that began protesting in cities across India this year, Pooja Domadia said climate crisis was “a fact and not a myth or a belief”. She said that several events were organised through the week to ensure that authorities the need for immediate action.
Alexandria Villaseñor, co-founder of the United States Youth Climate Strike movement said more than 1,000 strikes are planned across the United States and some 5,200 globally in about 156 countries, Reuters reported.
Organisers said the protests are likely to have significant impact since this will be the first time adults are joining student strikes on a large scale.
The placards carried by students read: “We didn’t light it, but we’re trying to fight it” and “The oceans are rising and so are we”.
“World leaders from everywhere are telling us that students need to be at school doing work,” a Sydney high school student told Reuters. “I’d like to see them at their parliaments doing their jobs for once.”
Villaseñor said protestors want an immediate end to the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure and that major producers of carbon emissions be held accountable.
“We are expecting world leaders to take bold climate action to give us the stable climate system that is our right as young people,” she said.
Around 60 countries and a range of business leaders are expected to make pledges to take action on climate change during the summit called by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
Here are some images from the protests:
Now, follow and debate the day’s most significant stories on Scroll Exchange.