On 20 August 2018, 15 year old Swedish student Greta Thunberg decided not to go to school until her government took action on climate change. Nearly six months later, the movement is now global, with over 10,000 UK students walking out of their classrooms on Friday 15 February. Here’s what I’ve learned from the student climate strike movement.
1. We can all influence someone
Greta Thunberg originally went on strike because she felt the Swedish government wasn’t doing enough to cut their carbon emissions. Now people around the world are following in her footsteps.
We can’t all be Greta Thunberg, but we can influence. How can your actions influence your church? Your colleagues, your university, your friends and family?
2. People respond to integrity
Young people are sometimes condemned for ‘clicktivism’ (signing an online petition without taking any other offline action). But the student climate protests are different. Greta’s determination in the face of all kinds of criticism and personal barriers has inspired a whole generation to put themselves on the front line for climate justice.
I’ve been personally challenged to be more committed to taking action on climate change, especially when it comes to the food I buy, and where I put my money and time. Integrity matters.
3. To hope is to act
‘When we start to act, hope is everywhere. So instead of looking for hope – look for action. Then the hope will come.’ (Greta Thunberg)
As Christians, we’re often told to be hopeful. Hope might seem like a passive word, but as Greta suggests, hope must be active. Her quote reminded me of a passage from the book of James: ‘In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.’ (James 2:17). Faith and hope have many similarities, so let’s be actively hopeful!
4. We need to think big to solve climate change
We’re often told that small actions make a big difference. And they do – walking out of school on a Friday is just one such small action. But as these students have shown us, what we really need is a total transformation. We need to rethink the way we live, eat, travel, use energy and consume goods.
The Paris Agreement has seen 195 countries around the world unite in a promise that works towards zero carbon emissions. That’s big! And it’s just one example of the positive ambition required to meet this unprecedented global challenge.
5. Our leaders are accountable to us
It’s easy to feel that as citizens we can’t do very much. Politicians make the big decisions and hold a lot of power. But as these students have shown us, our leaders must be held accountable to us.
Act like a stuck record and demand our governments meet or even exceed their carbon targets. You could talk to your MP or political representative, attend a protest, join a local campaign group, or even stand as a political candidate.
6. We cannot do it alone
As tempting as it would be to think we can personally solve climate change, it just isn’t possible. Greta Thunberg knew she needed to get others on board to have the biggest impact. If you want to work with a group you’re involved with on climate justice, We Are Tearfund’s Together Groups are a great place to start.