“Our house is on fire.”

With her empowering, honest words about the reality of climate change, 16-year-old Greta Thunberg is inspiring people across the world. Among the wide audience she has already reached are tens of thousands of school students participating in the ‘Fridays For Future’ school strikes and thousands more students who are set to walk out of schools and colleges across the UK this Friday. The incredible and necessarily radical actions of young people should be listened to and treated as a much-needed catalyst in the process of implementing the necessary sustainable economic and social change. These students are sacrificing one day per week of school because they are well-aware of the much bigger sacrifices they will be forced to make in a few years if we continue to pollute the planet at the current rate. 

Greta Thunberg has become a heroic spokesperson for young people across the world. Her powerful speeches at the UN Climate Conference and Davos directly call out the failure of politicians to tackle climate change: 

“The main solution, however, is so simple that even a small child can understand it. We have to stop our emissions of greenhouse gases. Either we do, or we don’t.” 

The simplicity of her words is what makes them so profound; as she says, “now is the time to speak clearly”. The school students of today have grown up with the individual responsibilities of sustainability drilled into them by parents, teachers and the media. But now, this group of teenagers are connecting the global problem with political failure. 

There’s a huge gap between the attitude of younger generations and politicians. Young people are driven to activism because politicians are failing us and will continue to do so unless we have our voices heard. By going on strike, school students are forcing people to listen. There’s also a tendency for politicians to patronise young people; they dismiss their views as being idealistic. But what the school strikes suggest to me is urgency. 

The ‘Youth Strike 4 Climate’ movement provides hope. The climate crisis is often portrayed as apocalyptic, which gives the impression that it cannot be averted. However, the young strikers remind us that it’s not too late to limit the effects of climate change if we introduce systematic change – as proposed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ Green New Deal. Headteachers will be faced with the demand for immediate change, which will put pressure on the government to take tangible environmental action.

It’s inspiring to see dedicated students helping Greta Thunberg’s mission to grow on a global scale. Her direct call to action is a necessary reality-check for politicians who don’t feel the same urgency: 

“I want you to feel the fear I feel every day”.

Thanks to the school students going on strike, the truth about climate change is being told and politicians will be dragged out of their comfortable shelter of ignorance and forced to act. Because why should they be allowed to ignore the crisis, when future generations will suffer?