Young people across Finland joined children from around the world in a ’climate strike’ on Friday March 15, walking out of school to draw greater attention to the issue of climate change.
The strikes, part of a movement known as ’Fridays for Future’, are inspired by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, who shot to fame after protesting climate change outside Sweden’s parliament every Friday.
They were coordinated and promoted online, using hashtags like #ClimateStrike and #FridaysForFuture.
In an open letter addressing world leaders, the group organising the March 15 global strike – which includes Thunberg – explained their motivations, saying: ”You have failed us in the past. If you continue failing us in the future, we, the young people, will make change happen by ourselves.”
’We want the politicans to do something’
Standing on the steps of the Finnish parliament building in Helsinki, 7th grade students Ekrem and Daniel told Yle News why they were on strike.
”We want to protest because there are consequences [to climate change],” said Ekrem. ”We want the politicians to know and to do something about it.”
”I don’t want people to have to leave their homes because it gets too hot, or because of climate change,” added his friend Daniel.
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Many protesters Yle News spoke to said they thought climate change wasn’t being addressed urgently enough.
”We need to do something now, we need to start the conversation now,” said school student Laura, 14.
Satvik, 13, explained his motivation in stronger terms: ”We’re trying to fight for what we deserve. We’re ruining this planet and we need to do something good.”
There was also frustration at how older generations are perceived to treat climate change as an afterthought:
”There’s climate change and people don’t talk about it much. Like, we’re just pretending it won’t happen, and we need to change that,” said 15-year-old Titus.
’Protesting feels empowering’
Friday’s climate strike in Helsinki saw around 3,000 children and young people taking part, according to estimates from the local police department. Seeing this size of turnout felt ”really cool and inspiring,” according to Lily from Espoo.
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”We didn’t think there’d be as many children as young as us here, because we didn’t think they cared about it,” said first-time protester Roseanne, 13, from Vantaa.
13-year-old Jasmine told Yle News, ”It feels empowering to be around a bunch of other young people who want the same thing.”
A serious message
Behind the memes and placards with messages like ”This girl is on fire” and ”The planet is hotter than my boyfriend” is a serious message: ”We’re the ones who are going to be living here,” said Laura, ”We want to have a future, a good future.”
13-year-old Roseanne is also thinking of the future, saying: ”I just hope we have more time to actually live on this earth, rather than it being destroyed.”
Vantaa student Jasmine wants the wider public to learn from the children’s school strike: ”I hope with this protest it’ll open people’s eyes to the different dangers, and maybe people will go vegetarian or vegan, and start conserving more energy to help save the earth.”