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Source: Greenpeace New Zealand

Last year was the year the future showed up.

In September 2019, streets in over 180 countries surged with colour and creativity as more than seven million people, led by youth, left their schools, homes, and workplaces to demand world leaders take action on climate.

Millions of people around the world went on strike from school or work to demand urgent measures to stop the climate crisis in 2019. © Toma Iczkovits / Greenpeace

This movement of millions, driven by groups like Fridays For Future, saw young people leading the charge, abandoning their classrooms for the day in defiance. It reawakened a movement, inspired solidarity from climate groups around the world, and has since been coined the largest global climate protest in history. And it’s only just turned a year old.

The power and size of these global demonstrations has changed the way that people think about climate change and what it means to be an activist. Local struggles have been connected and amplified. Climate leaders have joined forces, and strategies have been shared across seas and borders. 

This April, the school strike movement will continue, but from home. COVID-19 means people across the world are finding innovative ways to take action. On April 24, a global day of climate strikes will kick off – digitally. It may look different, but the demands remain the same: a united call for governments everywhere to urgently enact green and just legislation, like the Green New Deal

Keep your eyes peeled for digital actions, like online debates with influential leaders that continue to challenge business as usual. Use your creativity to make climate demands over social media and get your friends and family involved too. 

London’s school children go on strike and take to the streets to protest about climate change. © Kristian Buus / Greenpeace

These are three ways the school strike movement has already changed us for the better.

1. Innovation

Protesters during a Climate Change Awareness March outside Sydney Town Hall, Australia. The protests are part of a global climate strike, urging politicians to take urgent action on climate change.
Photo by James Gourley/Getty Images © James Gourley / Getty Images

This renewed movement has been enhanced by the use of innovative technology that connects school strikers no matter where they are. WhatsApp groups, video calls, webinars, TikTok challenges, Instagram stories, Facebook Live and channel sharing have all been leveraged to create a constant global stream of content that feels fresh and new.  As a result, the movement has sparked coverage and debate that has forced politicians and industry leaders to re-evaluate their response to the climate crisis we all face.

2. Solidarity

School strike for climate march in Auckland, New Zealand © David Tong

As millions hit the streets last September, the world watched something unique unfold – a global movement that has started to span generations and beliefs, race and culture.

People don’t need to share the same background – they stand in solidarity, wherever and however they can. In Moscow organisers got around bans on mass demonstrations by tag-teaming protests, with activists taking turns to hold banners for five minutes before being replaced by the next.

Moscow student Arshak Makichyan has been picketing alone every Friday since the 15 March 2019 in Moscow’s Pushkin Square. The Moscow local government refused to grant permission for a Fridays for Future student demonstration, yet Arshak continues with his protest. © Anna Antanaytite / Greenpeace

In Kabul, armoured personnel were deployed to protect about 100 young people as they marched through the streets. In Nairobi, students wore outfits made from plastic bottles in response to the dangers of plastic waste, a major threat to people in the developing world. Protests took place across Latin America, from Mexico City to Buenos Aires.

Millions of people around the world strike from school or work to demand urgent measures to stop the climate crisis. © Ilse Huesca Vargas / Greenpeace

Around the world, unions and NGOs joined together to support the youth-led movement. Grandparents went to the strikes, even if it meant taking multiple buses. Teachers left classrooms to stand alongside their students, and parents left workplaces, moved by the growing tide of people standing up for their children’s future.

Environmental activists take part in the Climate strike protest in Nairobi calling for action on climate change on 20 September 2019. © Evan Habil / Greenpeace

3. Joy

Colour, creative banners, music and dance have been staples of the school strike movement, and that’s part of its appeal. So often activism can be earnest, but the youth have shown the world that a revolution without dancing ain’t worth having, and that saving the world can be done with a smile.

The Global Climate Strike march in Turkey, 2019. © Yasin Akgul / Greenpeace

If we’re going to paint a picture of our future, why not do it with flair and style?  

School strikes 2020 and beyond

Things have changed a lot since last September. COVID-19 may have brought the world to a standstill, but it’s also shown us that governments and people can rapidly adapt and unite to find new ways of doing things in the face of existential threats.

Let’s amplify these messages and demands, and urge governments and world leaders to direct our resources into rebuilding a fairer and more resilient system that puts people and planet first. The more we are, the louder we will be this April 24th. 

Let’s make this the year of millions more.

People across the U.S. left their homes, workplaces, and schools for a youth-led Global Climate Strike. © Tim Aubry / Greenpeace