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Listen to the youth: Legislators must act amid strong protests for climate change

photoshopper24 | Pixabay

On March 15, students from 100 countries participated in a global strike to fight climate change.

The protesters were inspired by Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish student who, after learning about the disastrous future of planet earth, decided to go on strike.

In August 2018, Thunberg was alone, standing in front of the Swedish parliament asking the government to follow the Paris climate agreement, according to The New York Times.

So many young people fighting for such a noble cause can only be interpreted as an incredibly positive sign — new generations have ideals and are pugnacious to combat for them. However, will this protest bring about an actual change?

This is not a new question. With every protest there are those who argue that it is useless to take the issue to the streets and say that people should change the system from within.

For example, after a strike against climate change, a spokesperson for U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May commented against the student’s initiative, adding that the time spent protesting “is crucial for young people, precisely so they can develop into the top scientists, engineers and advocates we need to help tackle this problem,” The Independent reported.

Such arguments sound redundant and show the unwillingness of the ruling class to legitimize young people’s opinions and battles.

It is not false that many of the young people who were protesting do not have a full understanding of climate change and are currently unable to take meaningful action. However, protest is an informal type of political participation. Protesters just need the conviction that they are fighting for the right cause and that they are not alone doing it.

The fear about the future of the earth is well-justified.

A report issued by the United Nations stated that world governments only have until 2030 to revert the catastrophic destiny of the planet.

Restating the threat of climate change might sound like a useless preach, but today it is important to repeat its importance, especially when President Donald Trump — the head of the most powerful country in the globe — denies its existence and announced his withdrawal from the Paris Agreement.

Another point that those against the protest make is that student strikes are often not listened to by authorities and people in power. For instance, even though March for Our Lives — the student demonstration born after the Parkland, Florida, school shooting — had a significant impact on public opinion, this did not result in meaningful legislation.

The influence of economic interests for the National Rifle Association and the inherent gun culture in the United States appear too strong to be defeated by student marches.

It must be said, however, that protests and rallies are not always meant to bring immediate change, but rather act as a necessary cohesive element. Protests give a more solid structure to an issue and help frame it in a more concrete way.

Legislative proposals to fix climate change already exist, and this student march can give them more legitimacy.

Some students are endorsing the Green New Deal, a bold resolution proposed by Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez consisting of massive investments in clean energy jobs. Americans in favor of the proposal believe that this issue should become a national emergency. The Green New Deal is a daring move, but it might be a risk worth taking.

The protest sent an important message to the “adults” and to the international ruling class. Young people from all around the world are uniting with a single common proposition — fight climate change. This stance goes beyond political colors, cultural differences and language barriers.

The importance of this message cannot be underestimated. Governments need to implement regulations, reduce pollution and reduce their reliance on fossil fuels.

However, respecting the environment should not only be the prerogative of governments but also a priority for all individuals.

Protesting is necessary, but personal actions also matter. We are the change we seek.

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