Around late August in 2018, Greta Thunberg, aged 15 then, was seen outside the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm, silently handing out leaflets: “I am doing this because you adults are s****ing on my future.” Another hand-painted sign read, “skolstrejk för klimatet (school strike for climate change)”. She was on strike, refusing to attend school until Sweden’s authorities recognised the predicament the country faced because of climate change. Subsequently, Thunberg would skip school every Friday to protest against the lackadaisical attitude of policy makers.
On March 14, Thunberg was nominated for the Nobel peace prize. But perhaps a truer recognition of her efforts came in the spirited protests on March 15, when school children across countries organised strikes against climate inaction. One of Thunberg’s primary objectives was to steer the Swedish government’s attention towards policies that could help the country stay on course with the Paris climate targets — to keep global temperature rise below 2°C above pre-industrial levels. This was also when Sweden was getting assailed by heatwaves, wildfires and drought in what became the hottest summer the country had seen in more than 260 years.
Crucially, those who are part of the movement recognise that the young are the ones most at risk in a world that can heat up to more than 4°C its current temperature. The escalation it would cause on ecosystems globally is a terrifying spectre — for adults. But, for the school children striking on the streets, it will be a torrid reality to contend with. It is the ominous possibility of a world wrecked by climate devastation that has resonated with school children in India, too, as they stand in solidarity with Thunberg.