Carrying colourful signs wth slogans in English, French, and Dutch, over 30,000 students streamed through the streets of Brussels on Thursday for the third consecutive week of protests against climate change.
The demonstrations were inspired by the actions of Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, 16, who took a stand against global warming in August 2018 and has since then become a symbol of youth engagement on environmental issues.
Her actions have trickled down inspiring youth all over Europe to take to the streets: last Friday, more than 60,000 students across the continent, with large groups convening in Germany, Belgium and Switzerland, protested calling for more government action to slow down climate change.
Thunberg herself was expected to show up for a student march on Friday in Davos, Switzerland, where world leaders, entrepreneurs, and business people are gathered for the 2019 edition of the World Economic Forum. The 16-year-old activist travelled to Switzerland by train to hammer home her environmentalist message, before she addressed the elite in Davos via video message.
“Some people — some companies and decision-makers in particular — have known exactly what priceless values they are sacrificing to continue making unimaginable amounts of money,” Thunberg said. She then made an appeal to World Economic Forum attendees: “I ask you to stand on the right side of history. I ask you to pledge to do everything in your power to push your own business or government in line with a 1.5C world.”
As Greta threw down the gauntlet in Davos, sleeping in a tent among other forms of protest, young people in Belgiam also decided to challenge institutions by skipping school to attend a march for the climate in Brussels.
In October 2018, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that world leaders have only 12 years left to take urgent and unprecedented action in order to keep global temperatures to a maximum of 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. A steeper increase in temperature would mean extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people across the globe as well as increased risks of droughts and floods.
“We want the government to take action and create a cleaner world. We’re showing the big politicians in Belgium that we’re afraid for our future and that we’re going to have to deal with all the problems climate change brings along”, a young Belgian student called Oona told Euronews after taking part in the Brussels march.
“It’s not about paying for our plastic bags or changing our toothbrushes to wooden ones: we need them to realize that the world is falling apart and there won’t be anything left if we keep producing, eating meat, cutting down trees, driving cars at this speed”, Oona added.
“We have one message: clean the planet for the future!” Cody Corthouts, 19, told The Cube. Fleur, 17, who also marched through the streets of Brussels and past the European Parliament, was positive about the success that the event has had: “I’m really happy that the Belgian youth took the initiative on this matter.”
Some young protesters carried witty placards with slogans like “We’re hotter than the climate” and “Change the system, not the climate”. Others presented consequences of rising global temperatures: “Without Earth, there’s going to be no more beer,” one sign read.