They’re too young to vote, but on their slender shoulders rests the future of the planet. Less than two months ago, for the second time in 2019, more than 1.5 million young people in more than 125 countries took to the streets in the most dramatic show of global climate action in human history.
And that’s not hyperbole.
Neither are the stakes. For the simple truth is that, while their young voices are belittled, demeaned, ridiculed, shouted down, set aside, forgotten and ignored, the already narrow window of opportunity to effect positive change is closing rapidly.
Some say that window has already closed, but — eternally optimistic — the youth of the planet cannot allow themselves to think in those terms.
Greedheads rule, and they know that. But they also know, all things considered — and assuming nature is allowed to run its natural course, free of any sudden, world-ending cataclysm — they will outlive the greedheads.
That’s the one card they hold, after all. They will inherit the Earth, for good or for bad. And once the greedheads are dead and buried, long gone and long since forgotten, consigned to the dustbin of history like so many stanzas in Ozymandias, it will be down to the Greta Thunbergs and Alexandria Villaseñors of the world to clean up the mess and possibly — possibly — save the planet.
The burgeoning climate crisis is not the sole preserve of the white middle class from industrialized, developed — read: white — nations, either.
“I see the effects of climate change every single day,” 11-year-old Yola Mgogwana, of Khayelitsha, one of Cape Town, South Africa’s most impoverished townships, told The Guardian’s Anna Turns just days ago. “Our weather is not normal. One day it’s hot; the next day it’s raining heavily.”Just 18 months ago, Cape Town residents’ water consumption was limited to just 50 litres a day, and the city — pop. 3.7 million — was mere weeks away from “Day Zero,” the day taps would run dry.
“For me, that was a big sign that we need to change our ways and stand up for nature,” 11-year-old Mgogwana told the Guardian. “Because our government wants to profit from the environment, instead of implementing policies that protect it.”
She may be talking about South Africa, but she could just as easily have been talking about the US or UK — or Canada, for that matter.
Since January, Mgogwana has been volunteering with the Earthchild Project, an NGO pushing for climate and environmental awareness education in the world’s schools.
The school strike for climate is the 21st century equivalent of the 13th century’s Children’s Crusade, but it’s not about religion. The stakes are higher, and the outcome less certain.
In the meantime — part coda, part reason for hope — there’s this, from earlier today: