Teen Girls Are Leading a Wave of Climate Activism in Europe and, Now, the US
While politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez start pushing for a Green New Deal in Washington, teens stateside are taking cues from Europe, where a huge climate change movement — led almost entirely by young women and teen girls — is sweeping several countries.
Tens of thousands of students have flooded the streets in the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, and Belgium to demand we fight climate change, now. Not only is their movement gaining attention in the media, but the young women and girls at the center of the movement are inspiring other women to fight back.
The movement can be traced to September 2018, when Swedish teen Greta Thunberg went on “school strike” to protest alone outside of Sweden’s Parliament and demand climate action from her country’s government. Thunberg sought to dispel notions that the Nordic nation is a model of climate responsibility. “Sweden is not a green paradise, it has one of the biggest carbon footprints,” she told The Guardian in September.
In January, 16-year-old Thunberg traveled to Davos, Switzerland, during the annual World Economic Forum. There, she joined Swiss schoolchildren who’d been inspired by her original action to make a statement to world leaders about the looming threat of climate change. While she was in Davos, nearly 30,000 students participated in similar walk-out protests in Belgium and, since late January, even more walk-outs have been happening across Europe.
Some of the most dramatic strikes have been happening in Belgium, with Thursday marking the fourth in a series of weekly walkouts led by a 17-year-old named Anuna De Wever. “We deserve a green planet, a secure future and politicians who take responsibility for taking measures that prevent global warming and will continue to fight for it as a single generation,” De Wever told the crowds during the mass protest.
“We are not here to miss one day of school, but because of the political games that have an influence on our future,” added De Wever’s friend, Kyra Gantois, another teen credited with helping rapidly grow the Belgian movement. De Wever and Gantois credit Thunberg with giving them the idea to start protesting in early January, growing the European movement and seeing a greater push globally.
Jamie Margolin, the 17-year-old founder and executive director of Zero Hour — a youth-led climate action organization — told BuzzFeed News that she’s been working on a mass protest set to take place March 15, 2019, across the US. Margolin also said that climate activism is giving women a new voice.
“There aren’t very many spaces that I can be in charge of, and what I’m going to say is going to be heard,” Margolin said. “If you’re a victim of a system of oppression, you’re more affected by the climate crisis — that goes for women. Nobody is going to hand us this. We have to step up and raise our voices.”
(Photo by Omer Messinger/Getty Images)