WELLINGTON / SYDNEY • Thousands of school students across the world walked out of classes yesterday in a global student strike to protest against government inaction on climate change.
"Climate change is worse than Voldemort," read a handmade sign carried by a student in Wellington, referring to the evil wizard in the hugely popular Harry Potter books and films. "The oceans are rising, so are we," read another in Sydney.
Student protests in capitals and cities from Wellington to Washington drew tens of thousands of people. The worldwide student strike movement started in August last year, when 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg began protesting outside her Parliament on school days. She has since been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
"If we don't do something, it'll be our lives affected, not the 60-year-old politicians," said Sydney student Callum Frith, 15, who was wearing his school uniform. "We need action." Elsewhere in Asia, about 60 students protested at Government House in the Thai capital of Bangkok, holding cardboard signs to campaign against plastic. Thailand is one of the world's top marine plastic polluters.
"As youth who will inherit the land, we gather here to demand that the government work with us to solve these problems," said 17-year-old Thiti Usanakul of student-led group Grin Green International.
The group was later invited to meet officials at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment in two weeks.
In the South Korean capital of Seoul, more than 100 students held recycled cardboard signs with slogans such as "Too Warm 4 School" and "Don't deny climate change".
"I think environmental education should be mandatory from elementary school," said 15-year-old high school student Bang Tae-ryung. "Although we learn, we should know more about why it's happening and how we can resolve the problem."
In Singapore, young people planned a virtual campaign.
They were urged to post their views on their social media accounts with the hashtags #climatestrike and #climateactionsg.
In India's New Delhi, one of the world's most polluted cities, around 200 students took part in a colourful protest, waving ribbons, juggling and performing stunts with hoops.
"We have to make a choice whether we want to sit and be indifferent or do something for our planet," said 16-year-old student Srijani Datta, who also issued a warning to the world's politicians. "Most of us are 16-17 and we are going to turn 18 soon. We are going to be eligible for voting. As voters, we will show we care about climate change. If you can't give us that (fresh air and water), you will not get our votes."
Scientists say fossil fuel use releases greenhouse gases that trap heat and lift global temperatures, bringing more floods, droughts, heatwaves and rising sea levels.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE