#fridaysforfuture: Rising to the challenge of the Youth Strike 4 Climate

Protesters sitting outside Westminster for the Youth Strike 4 Climate
Youth Strike 4 Climate at Westminster (c) Jamie Lowe | http://www.rebellion.earth

On Friday 15 February 2019, more than 10,000 students in the UK walked out of their classrooms and onto the streets. Part of the Youth Strike 4 Climate movement, which is gathering pace around the world, they are demanding that the Government takes greater action on climate change. With another strike scheduled for 15 March, two Grantham Institute colleagues, born in different decades, reflect on the impact that it is having on them. 

Alyssa Gilbert, Director of Policy and Translation – “Moved, inspired and challenged”

Headshot of Alyssa Gilbert
(c) Fergus Burnett

“I found it incredibly moving to see such a large group of young people who care so much about this global crisis, and are facing it with passion and determination. I have worked in this field for nearly 20 years and never before felt it was seen as an issue of mainstream concern – until now. I want to, along with many others, say thank you to all who went on strike. Thank you for taking a stand and showing that you care. It inspires me, and gives me hope and energy in my own commitment to fighting climate change. 

“The Youth Strike also lays down a challenge for everyone, including NGOs, businesses and particularly governments, to take greater action on climate. With their frank declaration that more needs to be done, these young people have reminded me that the past 20 years has only brought limited success. There is a huge gap between what countries are doing, and what must be done, to prevent catastrophic climate change. Despite all the work by research institutes like the Grantham Institute, we still have a long way to go to bridge that gap.”  

Neil Grant, Research Postgraduate – “More and faster” 

Headshot of Neil Grant“The school strikes taught me about the potential power of young people to drive change. Already the strikes have achieved something. It was the action of young people that inspired Layla Moran MP to co-sponsor the first Parliamentary debate on climate change in over two years. And while the debate attendance was disappointing (with a shocking 610 MPs absent), this must be celebrated. These soon-to-be voters may ensure that climate change enjoys greater political attention – and action – in the future. 

“The strikes also reminded me that sometimes simple is best. The central message of these young people is ‘more and faster’. This is a message that policymakers need to hear. In research, we can often be focused on understanding complex issues, and our language can become full of nuance and caveats. While this is often necessary, these strikes remind me that sometimes we just need to tell it like it is. More and faster.”  

How can we respond to the Youth Strike 4 Climate? 

Together, Alyssa and Neil  agreed three ways to respond to the Youth Strike 4 Climate. 

  • Support the strikes. 

These young people are showing leadership, courage and determination, and we should applaud that. If you’re a student at Imperial, join the Imperial Strikes for Climate on Friday 15 March. We should be grateful for the school strikers. The least we can do is ensure that they don’t stand alone. 

  • Build on their momentum.  

These young people are asking politicians to come up with a solution to the climate crisis. The Grantham Institute is one of many research institutes around the world who are actively developing such solutions. As researchers, we should use the momentum that the youth strikes have created to push for concrete actions that will lead us towards a greener, cleaner and fairer future. For example, the government must implement the latest Committee on Climate Change recommendations for the housing sector; and stop investing in fossil fuel projects abroad.   

  • Ensure that young people are part of the conversation 

These young people are marching on the streets because they feel that there is no other way for their voices to be heard. Despite being the age group whose entire future could be governed by climate change, young people have been often excluded from climate conversations. At the Grantham Institute, we are considering how to get more young people involved in our activities. After all, it’s their future as much as ours. 

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