Skipping school is not something that ought to be encouraged, but that is what 1.4 million students did world wide on Friday, March 15th. Young students from across the world, from New York to Berlin, to Mexico City, across all five continents, came out in the hundreds of thousands last week, in one of the biggest coordinated global demonstrations ever. 100,000 youth in Montreal alone participated.
They were taking part in what seems to be an unprecedented civic movement amongst youth. Most of the participants were not yet adults, but they are striking because they think that they do not have the luxury of waiting another 10 years. They are telling us that by then the planet may already be beyond the turning point of environmental salvation.
A recent study by the UN recently published gave us a collective deadline of 12 years globe wide to enact changes to our economy or be beyond the threshold of no return. We all know that people are having a significant negative effect on the environment. Some people may not care about it for different reasons. The oil industry wants to continue to burn fossil fuels, some people figure they may not be around for the worse part of the changes, others may not think the changes are serious. The youth participating think otherwise.
We hear a lot about millennials and how they vote and think differently than baby boomers. The next generation will have an even bigger contrast in values. Most millennials are actually in their 20s and 30s. The last millennials to enter University will do so this year and then a new group will start to be old enough to vote. The new generation, dubbed “generation Y” will have an even greater concern for the environment, because the facts and science demand it.
The reasons for this are clear. Study after study shows that man-made climate change is having a significant effect on our planet. It is the only planet we have. As a young person, feeling like they are not ever going to be able to buy a home may be difficult. It is more difficult now for a person with a median wage to buy a home than it was in the 1980s. It is hard to start a family that way. In fact, young people in significant numbers are starting to delay starting families for environmental reasons too, because they are worried about climate change.
We need to create a better future for our youth, and we need to listen. The youth are learning how to make change happen, the rest of us need to do better and catch up fast before it is too late.