A Spark in Climate Activism: Activists step in, leaders need to step up

Tropical Storm Imelda marked the strongest force of weather this city has faced since Hurricane Harvey, which cost the lives of 68 people (14 in the Houston area). 

These two storms have one thing in common: they’re examples of how a metropolitan city can handle natural disasters in a changing climate. 

When we have child activists, such as Greta Thunberg, and millions of people around the world protesting in the streets to government leaders and constant changing global deadlines, the time has come to ask how much longer can cities, countries and the planet put up with this?

Greta Thunberg has been a rising voice in the fight against climate change, having recently given a powerful speech at the UN Climate Action Summit where she, according to the Irish Times, said, “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.” 

She started by protesting her education in front of Swedish parliament with a sign that read “Skolstrejk För Klimatet,” which is Swedish for “School Strike for Climate”. She has also most notably started the Fridays For Future campaign, where millions around the world walk out of their jobs and schools to protest against the lack of action made against climate change by world leaders. Her influence, and that of many other young activists, has inspired countless others worldwide.

These protests have garnered the attention from some world leaders, both positive and negative. In one of the 2020 Democratic Presidential Election debates, candidate and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke labeled climate change as the biggest threat to society today. Negatively, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro denied aid from France and other countries to combat the Amazonian rainforest fires. Multiple countries, such as China, have made changes to combat any damage created by industry. According to Futurism, the idea of “creating 30 sponge cities” that store runoff rainwater and any pollution by using building infrastructure as the method for these sponges is one of these ideas.

Another group of activists is Extinction Rebellion (XR), who aim with non-violent, civil disobedience protests to share concern for climate change. They started approximately 11 months ago, based in England and have taken to the streets. Unlike Fridays For Future, they are purely protesting without the strike or any other restriction. 

They have branched out to New York City, with protesters observing “die ins” in the middle of the streets. On one occasion according to Gothamist, 60 activists were arrested at New York City Hall.

In Iceland and Switzerland, people are mourning the deaths of glaciers by visiting the sites in dark clothing to spread awareness. On one such occasion in Iceland, according to The Guardian, a plaque was made in the Okjokull glacier. 

Stating in an alarming “Letter To The Future”: “Okjokull is the first Iceland glacier to lose its status as a glacier. In the next 200 years, all our glaciers are expected to follow the same path. This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it.”

These protests all have the common goal to shape the way our world leaders view the ongoing issue of climate change. Millions take to the streets every week, and their efforts are not being ignored, with consistent media coverage and growing influence. 

However, media coverage will not be enough for their efforts; the voice and actions of world leaders are. Those in power, politically and economically, will be the ones who decide our fate.

Whether Greta or XR, their efforts have been a spark of hope as concerns increase, and a planet that is aching for a solution with a countdown before irreversible climate disaster.

Only we’ll know in the future if we did enough.