From the moment Greta Thunberg skipped school to sit on the Swedish Parliament steps and demand action against climate change, a global movement has been building.
Today, for the second time, students across the UK and 30 other countries worldwide will be stepping out to protest against the lack of government action to combat the climate crisis.
It is hoped that today’s strike will match the success of the first, when almost 1.5 million students from all over the globe switched their pencils for placards on Friday 15 March. These young campaigners know how to keep up the momentum for their cause.
And momentum is exactly what we need.
Power in the public voice: the plastic backlash
The issue of climate change is so big that it’s tempting to shirk any personal responsibility – what can we do as individuals when our carbon footprint is ballooning out of control on a national level? Still, while the idea of tackling climate change may seem insurmountable, the last two years have been a shift in the right direction, showing what’s possible with collective action.
Who was worrying about the fate of their plastic straw or disposable coffee cup in 2015? Now, following the enormous success of Blue Planet II and what seems to be a national awakening to the plastic crisis, I’m almost ashamed to order a coffee without my trusty reusable cup to hand.
Plastics have been a part of our lives for decades, and they’ve never been any easier to get rid of, but the sudden surge of public rage has made the difference in making a positive change.
On the back of overwhelming public support, McDonalds announced its paper straw rollout in June 2018 and Starbucks has launched a £1m fund to improve plastic cup recycling across the UK. Theresa May has committed the UK to eliminating all avoidable plastic waste by 2042. Where plastics are concerned, at least, we can call the situation a modest success.
Not far enough
Still, you can’t help but wonder – 2042? If it’s true that we only have 12 years to save the planet, then following May’s 25 year environmental plan just isn’t enough.
But with Brexit debates raging, and now set to continue until 31 October, when is climate change going to receive the attention it desperately needs?
Perhaps the Brexit beast has in part contributed to this unprecedented moment in history, with political engagement (and alienation) rising and where environmental concerns are not only receiving wide public backing, but have been instilled with a sense of urgency that wasn’t there before.
I’m not the first person to say this, but we should be embarrassed as a nation that it’s taken the youngest among us stepping out in protest for the adults to sit up and take notice.
Since our politicians find the protestors doing their dirty work so ‘inspirational’, it seems time that they take more decisive action to commit to solving the climate crisis.
So I applaud the students out on strike today and I hope their unceasing action puts some much-needed pressure onto our government.
Greta Thunberg’s one-woman protest might have turned the tide of public opinion, but it’s going to take a tsunami to see climate change claim some of Brexit’s airtime on the government agenda.