Do you think Greta was right to strike from school?
One August morning in Stockholm, Sweden, Greta Thunberg decided she could no longer ignore the problems facing the planet. Changes to the climate were more and more worrying and it seemed as if no-one was taking the problem seriously.
In parliaments all over the world, tens of thousands of serious-looking and stern-sounding politicians sat and talked about an endless range of issues. But they never addressed the problem of the health of the planet. It was time for someone to remind them to step in to protect the environment – and the future of children all over the world. It was an emergency. Everything else could wait.
So, on that day, Greta tied her long hair into two plaits, put on a checked shirt and a blue coat, and walked out of the house where she lived with her parents. Under her arm she carried a wooden placard. Handwritten at the top were the words “SCHOOL STRIKE FOR THE CLIMATE”. She had also made some leaflets to distribute, with important information about climate change that she thought everyone should know.
That day, Greta should have gone to school. (In Sweden, the holidays end in August.) Instead, she climbed on her bike and rode to the parliament building in the city centre.
The Swedish Parliament meets in a beautiful, serious-looking building in the middle of the city. The Riksdag is the place where politicians elected by the Swedish people sit and discuss the country’s problems and pass laws to fix them. These are the people who can really make a difference. If they hadn’t noticed that global warming had become an emergency, Greta would remind them.
Of course, in our daily life, every single one of us can commit to reducing our impact on the health of the planet by limiting waste and pollution as much as possible. But unfortunately, this is not enough. Faced with an issue as complex as this, you have to change the rules and make new laws to protect the environment. Who else can do this if not the men and women sitting in the parliament? That’s why Greta went there that morning.
On that day – Monday the 20th of August 2018 – Greta launched her school strike.
People passing by looked at the girl with the placard and were curious about her. Perhaps they wondered who she was and what she was doing. She sat there for the time she would normally have been in class, from 8.30 in the morning until three in the afternoon. On the first day, she spent all that time by herself and none of the politicians walking past took any notice. But Greta wasn’t discouraged.
The next morning, she got up early, dressed, climbed on her bike and went back to the parliament, again carrying her sign. The strike continued.
But on this second day, something incredible happened: instead of just glancing at her, wondering what she was doing there, and then walking straight past, a few of the people passing by decided to stop. Greta was no longer alone. Other boys and girls joined her.
By the third day, there was a nice little group of people sitting on the ground with her. They were mostly young, but there was also a mother with a little boy in a stroller, a woman with grey hair and a student who had brought along a book to read.
On the sixth day of the strike, Greta suggested to everyone that they should talk about the protest on their social networks, sharing photos and information. That way, even people who couldn’t join the protesters would be able to show their support with a message, a like or a share. The news about what was going on began to spread.
Day after day, the group of concerned citizens who had decided to follow her example and join the protest, confident that she was absolutely right, got bigger and bigger. They had to act to save the planet, as soon as possible and without delay.
The politicians walked past Greta on the way to their offices in the Riksdag. Although most of them continued to ignore her, occasionally someone would stop to congratulate her and tell her she was doing a great job.
Around the city, people started talking about Greta, the 15-year-old with plaits. Newspaper reporters turned up, as well as some people who were just curious, and others who wanted to show their support. More and more mothers came along with their children. There were grandparents and lots of young people.
Meanwhile, all over the world, people were more and more interested in what was happening in Stockholm, and a major English newspaper decided to tell Greta’s story. The Guardian published an online article about the school strike for the climate. The headline read, “The Swedish 15-year-old who’s cutting class to fight the climate crisis”.
Lots of people were reading about the climate strike in newspapers and thought it was a good idea. Swedes living in other big cities and small towns, from one end of Sweden to the other, heard Greta’s call and organised the same kind of protest.
Since that morning in August when she left her house for the first time, headed for the parliament, Greta had a clear goal in mind. She would strike until the 7th of September, which was election day, when Swedish citizens would be voting for the men and women who would sit in the parliament.
Because so many people appeared to support her, it seemed a good idea to let as many of them as possible know about the climate strike. On her Instagram profile, Greta invited everyone to take part in the last day of the protest.
On the 7th of September, dozens of people responded to her appeal. Greta had drawn the attention of journalists, politicians and ordinary people to the issue.
Greta reminded the crowd of people who turned up that, among other things, greenhouse gas emissions definitely needed to be limited to stop global warming from making life on earth impossible. So why didn’t the candidates up for election make fixing this problem a priority? Why, in the weeks leading up to the election, was the environment not discussed?
Thanks to the school strike for the climate, Greta’s questions reached the ears of Sweden’s parliamentarians. Now, all she had to do was wait for their responses.
But the strike in Stockholm was only the beginning.
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