“Fridays for a Future:” The power of the next generation

February 1, 2019

After the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School last year, student activists took to the streets and social media to voice the issues of gun violence in the United States. These students were met with such great support, from not only members of their community, but nationally and internationally, especially by famous celebrities.

The “March for Our Lives” movement is one of the most impactful, if not the most impactful, movements in the United States of our generation, demonstrating how the determination of a group of individuals is able to make such a profound change on their society.

At their national march in March of 2018 in Washington D.C., alongside marches across the United States, over one million people showed their support in ending the tragedies that come from gun violence. Gun violence is not an issue that should be taken lightly in any sense, and I commend these students for starting this movement and continuing to advocate it.

Their hashtag, #NeverAgain, drew the attention of millions of youths across the country, arguing and fighting for increased restrictions on guns laws. A mass murder happens almost every day in the United States, which is often not talked about anymore because it seems so commonplace. But we shouldn’t think about gun violence as something that is commonplace because it very clearly isn’t.

David Hogg, arguably the largest founder of the movement, is almost a year younger than I am. And is already more famous than I’ll ever probably be. And even though I am a part of his generation, he has already left his mark on this world. Which I totally support. I like to tell myself that I just haven’t found myself yet, and when I do, I can make a profound impact on the world.

But is gun violence the only issue that should be talked about to this high of a caliber? Hell no. The climate movement is a major issue affecting not just the United States but the whole world. It is not being talked about enough, especially in the United States.

The natural progression of this article asks, well, is anyone doing anything about the climate movement as strongly as the gun control movement? Simple answer, yes, but not necessarily by someone you might expect.

It seems like the age of the largest activists continues to decrease, which is great, but worrying for my 19-year-old self. Greta Thunberg, a 15-year-old student from Sweden is skipping school in order to fight the climate change movement that is being ignored. The Guardian described this girl as a “diminutive girl with pigtails and a fleeting smile,” which is honestly more intimidating.

Sitting quietly outside the parliament in central Stockholm, all Thunberg does is hand out leaflets to pedestrians that declare “I am doing this because you adults are shitting on my future,” according to the article by The Guardian.

Her actions and words have made the largest impact in Thunberg’s story. While her parents and teachers have been split about what Thunberg is attempting to do, people are following her, even her teachers.

According to the article, one of her teachers lost out on three weeks of pay and possibly even his job to support Thunberg in her quest.

“The best thing about my protest has been to see how more and more people have been coming and getting involved,” Thunberg said, according to The Guardian. “I don’t care if I get into trouble at school. I believe that one person can make a difference.”

And Thunberg is living proof that one person can make a difference. Her story has been picked up by numerous media outlets and has expanded all across the world, with a large support in Australia, which is one of the countries facing the worst effects of climate change.

She has gone all the way up to talking to the secretary of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, about the dilemma that she is faced with. But she knows that it should not be a dilemma that she should even be having.

Thunberg was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, OCD and selective mutism, meaning that she only speaks when she feels it is necessary. While some would see this as a disability, Thunberg has decided to use this disability as a method of empowerment to speak towards a better future.

In a Ted talk with TEDxStockholm, she says that people who are on the spectrum think primarily in black and white. She continues to use this analogy to explain the climate crisis in her eyes. “I don’t understand that, because if the emissions have to stop, then we must stop the emissions. To me that is black or white. There are no gray areas when it comes to survival. Either we go on as a civilization or we don’t. We have to change.”

And she is 100 percent right. This is an issue that cannot be taken lightly anymore. Climate change is a serious issue that needs to be a top priority. I have been a part of this movement for almost two years now, and while I have personally done my part in reducing my carbon footprint, that is not enough.

One person doing something is not enough to change the world. Unfortunately, 100 million people doing something is also probably not enough to change the world. But starting to have the conversation is what needs to be done to make change occur.

All of these movements started with people talking. It does not necessarily take extreme action to make a difference. The “March for Our Lives” movement was successful because a group of students saw an issue that they wanted to fix, so they did something about it, amassing such a huge following in support.

Thunberg started an international conversation about climate change from simply sitting with a sign that said “Skolstrejk for Kilmatet,” which translates to “School strike for climate” and gained an international following and encouraged strikes by students all across the world in support of her message.

In a climate change class that I’m taking this semester, which *pssst* fulfills a P.E. requirement in the new curriculum, called “Your Brain on Carbon,” taught by Professor Sabine von Mering (GRALL/WGS/ENVS) and Sustainability Manager, Mary Fischer, we have been practicing our elevator speeches on what climate change is.

Brain break. How do YOU define climate change? If you had 30 seconds or less to explain it, what would you say? It is really easy to get caught up in the facts, but the facts are not what stands out most. Because people can keep talking about climate change, but it is intangible, which already proves a level of disconnect.

Think about those who have invested time in learning about climate change and are able to dispel it in a manner that is understandable in a quick manner to someone in an elevator. They are able to manipulate like the best manipulators, climate change deniers. That’s right. You think climate change deniers can be suave, talk to any young generation climate change fighter. We got the moves.

But life-changing events happen every day to people. You never know when one is going to hit you. That’s the beauty of life. But the biggest impact is what you can do about the situations that cause those big impacts on the world. And that’s what these students did.

Everyone has the power to change the world. And even though these impacts are coming from the younger generations, they’re the ones who are learning the ropes to lead us to a safe, happy and clean environment.

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