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Young and Old Together in the Global Climate Strike


It is always encouraging when an international call for unified action on the climate crisis is put out and there’s a widespread, positive response to it at the grassroots. This has been happening periodically since the mid-2000’s, at a time when, compared to today, there wasn’t much of a popular movement on the climate issue.

Today, one month out from the Global Climate Strike beginning on September 20 and going ‘til the 27th, the situation is very different. The need for action on climate is widely accepted, even in the United States, stronghold of the enemy of a decent future, the fossil fuel industry.

The dates for this week of action were chosen to coincide with a UN Climate Summit being held on the 23rd of September in NYC. The hope is that this summit will accelerate actions to implement the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change. That agreement isn’t strong enough to solve the crisis, but there’s no question that acceleration is definitely needed given the acceleration of extreme weather events and the very real possibility that we are getting into climate tipping points territory.

In a press release posted two days ago on the https://globalclimatestrike.net website, it was reported that: ”In addition to people walking out of work to join strikes, marches and rallies, events include music concerts, mass bike rides, teach-ins, people’s assemblies, protests targeting fossil fuel companies, bike races and even a demonstration in someone’s living room!”

Unions in Europe are getting involved:

“The leadership of one of Germany’s largest unions is encouraging its over 2 million members to join the strikes. Italy’s largest union representing 5.5 million workers just announced it will mobilise its members on 27 September.”

Helmut Born of the United Services Union in Germany is quoted, saying: “When Greta and the young people from Fridays for Future call for adults to support the global strike, we understand this to be a call to trade unions, workers councils and employees to get involved and fight for climate action and future-oriented jobs. We want to make a contribution so that September 20th is a turning point in the struggle for a fairer and more ecological society. We call on all colleagues to be creative so that trade unions and workers can become an active part of the climate movement”.

The climate strike movement was inspired by teenager Greta Thunberg of Sweden, who is currently making her way to New York City across the Atlantic Ocean in a small sailing boat with her father and several others. The movement which she inspired has spread rapidly across the world in the last 12 months. “Strikers are demanding that governments step up to take urgent action to prevent catastrophic climate breakdown by phasing out fossil fuels and beginning the urgent transition to a sustainable, renewable energy powered future with climate justice and equity at its core.”

The leadership of young people in this climate strike movement and their involvement in large numbers is huge. And by “young” I don’t mean just college age. High school, middle school and even grade school young people are coming out to these actions.

Leadership and mass involvement from young people is always a decisive factor when it comes to social movements pressing for significant social change. It was true in the civil rights/Black Freedom, student and anti-war movements of the 60’s and in movements since.

But young people need support and respectful interaction with older people. A major reason why those movements of the ‘60s declined in the ‘70s was the relatively small number of older adults willing and able to engage positively with the young people of SNCC and SDS, in particular, to provide the wisdom gained from experience that all of us need as we grow up and spread our wings.

The world’s peoples and all life forms on earth can’t survive a decline in the climate/climate justice movements because it is infected with serious internal problems with ageism, sexism, heterosexism, white supremacy or other forms of disrespect and oppression. Truly, our future on earth is dependent not just on the work we do and the actions we take but on how we go about that work and those actions.

Rosa Luxemburg, a leading European socialist in the late 1800’s and the first 19 years of the 20th century, once said something that is relevant to this decisive issue of HOW, on a personal, human level, we take on the oppressors and build our movements:

“Unrelenting revolutionary activity, coupled with a boundless humanity, is the life-giving force of socialism. A world must be overturned, but every tear that has flowed and might have been wiped away is an indictment, and a man hurrying to perform a great deed who steps on even a worm out of unfeeling carelessness commits a crime.”

You don’t need to be a revolutionary or a socialist to appreciate the importance of the insights learned from experience reflected in Luxemburg’s words, and their continuing relevance to our movements today.

Ted Glick has been a progressive activist, organizer and writer since 1968. Past writings and other information can be found at https://tedglick.com, and he can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jtglick.

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