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I remember sitting in my room one day, feeling truly concerned about the fate of this planet. Shortly before that day, I had transformed my anger and frustration about the way we deal with our natural resources into real action for the first time ever. But I wondered: was there nothing more to individual youth action?
I had seen and heard of great young leaders from all around the world who had risen to the occasion. People who vehemently urged their elected leaders to finally start listening to their personal interests and, with regard to the climate crisis, to the interests of all of us. But there hasn’t been a cumulative voice against the atrocious consequences our governments are accepting every day by largely ignoring the scientific community. These voices had to be heard. We had to come together to collectively demand change. And we had to be unbelievably fast.
A couple of months later, young people have started doing exactly that in dozens of countries around the world. In the beginning, I didn’t even recognize the power of those protests which grew weekly and spread to many cities. Four years after the Paris Agreement, the youth finally started to raise their voice. Seeing that the same governments who celebrated the climate agreement as a huge achievement had shown zero interest in fulfilling their own promises, these kids were angry.
I had to be a part of it.
“This crisis affects all of us, not just young people. If our governments are not pressured into making a political U-turn and changing their whole political agendas to reach carbon-neutrality, we will not win this battle.”
In Germany, the movement started in December 2018. Our demand has been crystal-clear ever since: raising our voice in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Just one month after the protests began, the German government had the opportunity to take a big step in the right direction. By closing all existing coal mines in the country until 2030, they could have lowered greenhouse gas emissions significantly and — as the biggest coal producer worldwide — they could have set an example to governments from all around the world.
They missed that chance.
What followed is astonishing: from that day on, we have grown to become a national youth movement with over 600 local groups in our country alone. For nine months, we have been staying away from school, university and training companies every Friday aiming to get our country aligned with the Paris Agreement. What really surprised me was that we have been featured in every news outlet in Germany, we have spoken to many politician and we made people start thinking about the dire situation which lies right in front of us.
Creating a global window of opportunity
The global youth may have enforced one of the most decisive moments in history: again, and maybe for the last time, governments around the world have the opportunity to solve this crisis. By finally taking their pledges from Paris seriously, they can collectively move towards a carbon-neutral future. While the last few months have shown how much public attention we can create for this issue, nothing has changed politically. The German coal mines are still running, millions of cars are still driving every day and our agriculture still has enormous negative impacts on our planet — to name just a few of the problems which have not been solved by our elected leaders.
This crisis affects all of us, not just young people. If our governments are not pressured into making a political U-turn and changing their whole political agendas to reach carbon-neutrality, we will not win this battle. I don’t have to mention what is at stake here. Since you are reading these lines, you most certainly have also read the headlines about the fires in the Amazon, in the Arctic, in Siberia and in Africa. You have experienced or read about heat records being crushed in countries all over the world. This crisis does not lie ahead of us: it has already started. And if you listen to science, this really is only the beginning.
The essence is this: for our planet to remain habitable, we have to change everything. To move away from fossil fuels, we have to transform the way we eat, commute, live, consume, and travel. And we have to raise our voices — not just the youth, but people of all ages. In order to save our future, we have to become climate activists. The timeframe has been set a long time ago and we are approaching its end with increasing pace.
The global youth has made the first step — start supporting them by taking their lead.