Youth making a global difference …

Greta Thunberg Slams COP25, Says Response to Climate Crisis Is “Clever Accounting and Creative PR”

DECEMBER 12, 2019

At the U.N. climate summit in Madrid, 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg addressed world leaders Wednesday, hours after she was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year. Thunberg came to the talks after a trip to meet with climate leaders across North America in anticipation of the scheduled climate conference in Santiago, Chile, before the talks were abruptly moved to the Spanish capital. In her address, Thunberg warned that the planet’s carbon budget is down to just eight years, and urged bold action. “I still believe that the biggest danger is not inaction. The real danger is when politicians and CEOs are making it look like real action is happening when in fact almost nothing is being done apart from clever accounting and creative PR,” Thunberg said.

A 14-year-old climate activist inspired by Greta Thunberg sits outside the UN on Fridays. She says she’s been getting death threats (Aria Bendix),Business InsiderDecember 7, 2019

Alexandria Villaseñor
Alexandria Villaseñor

Ole Jensen/Getty Images

Almost a year ago, teen climate activist Greta Thunberg delivered an impassioned speech at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poland. Her remarks caught the attention of Alexandria Villaseñor, a New York middle-schooler who was 13 at the time.  

Villaseñor had just visited family in northern California, and the trip coincided with the deadliest blaze in the state’s history: the 2018 Camp Fire, which killed at least 85 people. She’d stayed in a town about two hours away from the flames, and said the smoke caused her asthma to flare up. 

“I was sick,” Villaseñor told Business Insider, adding that she donned a face mask and placed wet towels in the crevices of windows and doors at her family’s home. “So I started to really research wildfires and I saw the connection between them and climate change.” 

When she came across a video of Thunberg’s COP24 speech, Villaseñor said, she decided that she could help prevent a future climate-related disaster by joining Thunberg’s Fridays for Future movement. The initiative encourages students to skip school to demand action on climate change from their governments, and it has swelled to encompass thousands of student activists like Villaseñor. 

She now sits outside the United Nations headquarters in Manhattan on Fridays. Each time, Villaseñor brings a sign that reads “COP24 Failed Us,” a reference to the fact that global emissions have continued to rise since that conference in December 2018. This week marked the one-year anniversary of her strike; she goes rain or shine and even sat outside the UN during a polar vertex.  

“When Greta started striking, it gave permission to other students all around the world to go on protest as well,” Villaseñor said. “She speaks with such authenticity that it really resonates with other young people.”

Greta Thunberg and Alexandria Villasenor
Greta Thunberg and Alexandria Villasenor

EuropaNewswire/Gado/Getty Images

But joining Thunberg’s movement also comes with challenges: namely, criticism from adults. Villaseñor said she has been harassed on social media and even received death threats from climate-change deniers. But that hasn’t stopped her from protesting. 

Fridays at the United Nations 

In December 2018, Villaseñor told her parents that she planned to skip seventh grade every Friday to go on strike. 

“I had never gone to a protest before. I’d never been involved in any organizational space,” she said. “At first it was like, is this really going to make a difference?”

Alexandria Villasenor
Alexandria Villasenor

Sarah Blesener/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Her parents gave their consent, she said, but her friends were confused.

“At first when I started striking, they didn’t really understand why it was important or why I was doing it,” she said. “It was my job to educate them.”

By February, Villaseñor told the Washington Post that she was transferring to a private school that allows her take off for strikes, protests, and public appearances. 

Teen climate strikers have catapulted to fame

Villaseñor is the first to admit that her life isn’t that of a normal teenager. She has been photographed with Leonardo DiCaprio and she stood on stage next to Jane Fonda at Glamour’s 2019 Women of the Year Awards.

On Wednesday, she gave a speech in front of Mark Ruffalo and former Vice President Al Gore at the TED World Theatre in New York City. Over the next few days, she’ll be at COP25 in Madrid. Thunberg will be in Spain, too — she arrived in Lisbon via sailboat on Tuesday, since she refuses to fly because of airplanes’ high greenhouse-gas emissions.

Countdown Launch
Countdown Launch

Dian Lofton (TED)

Villaseñor is less extreme than Thunberg when it comes to her efforts to reduce her own carbon footprint. She takes public transportation around New York, uses a bamboo toothbrush, and washes her hair with a bar of shampoo instead of shampoo from a bottle. 

“I do look at my own habits,” she said. “But the majority of our greenhouse gas emissions come from 100 companies all around the world.”

For both of these young activists, and others like them, attracting international attention has been a key part of their strategy. But it has also landed the teens in stressful situations. 

In September, President Donald Trump mocked Thunberg on Twitter after she shed tears during a speech at the UN General Assembly. Thunberg also said her sister, Beata, has experienced “systematic bullying, hatred, and harassment” online. 

Villaseñor said she has been a topic of conversation on the right-wing news site Breitbart, where she received death threats in the comments section. The threats were so disturbing, she said, that Breitbart temporarily disabled its comments and purged some of the posts. But more vitriolic remarks sprung up after, Villaseñor added. 

After receiving those threats, she said she felt the need to surround herself with more adults at protests.

“We make sure there are peacekeepers and marshals — people who can really watch the surroundings,” she said.

But overall, Villaseñor added, the criticism motivates her.  

“Whenever I see a climate denier or a troll, I find it a good sign,” she said. “It just shows how threatened they are.”

Villaseñor said she is motivated by anger 

Alexandria Villasenor
Alexandria Villasenor

Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images

Villaseñor founded a group called Earth Uprising for young climate activists, and said the teens generally coordinate their efforts through social channels like WhatsApp, Instagram, and Slack. Facebook, she noted, is less common.

“I mean, what’s Facebook?” she said teasingly. “I don’t really use that one that much.”

Villaseñor said she and her fellow activists communicated a lot about their excitement surrounding Thunberg’s visit to New York in September.

“We were just ecstatic,” she said. “It was amazing that she was coming here because she had inspired us in the first place to go out and take action.”

But ecstasy is in rare supply during her protests and strikes. Instead, Villaseñor said, she’s motivated by anger, grief, and frustration.  

“Behind every protest there is a layer of anger,” she said. “In the future, school won’t matter anymore because we’ll be too busy running from the next wildfire or hurricane.”

December 6, 2019

“It’s Our Future”: Meet the Youth Activists Behind Fridays for Future Movements in Uganda and Chile

In Spain, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has arrived in Madrid to take part in today’s strike as well as a major march set for 6 p.m. local time. Greta began the climate strike movement last year when she started skipping school every Friday to stand in front of the Swedish parliament, demanding action to prevent catastrophic climate change. Her protest spread, quickly going global. We speak with two youth climate strikers: Hilda Flavia Nakabuye is the founder of Fridays for Future Uganda and Angela Valenzuela is a coordinator with Fridays for Future in Chile, where this year’s U.N. climate summit had been scheduled but massive protests against neoliberalism forced the Chilean government to cancel the talks.

Youth-Led Protests Topple Iraqi PM as Demonstrations Calling for Overhaul of Government Continue

DECEMBER 02, 2019

Anti-government protests are continuing in Iraq one day after the Iraqi parliament voted to accept the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi. On Saturday, protesters set off fireworks in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square when Abdul Mahdi announced he would submit his resignation, though he will remain in a caretaker capacity until a new government is formed. The resignation came two days after Iraqi security forces killed at least 44 people in the southern cities of Nasiriya and Najaf after the Iranian consulate was burned down on Wednesday night. Following the bloody crackdown, Iraq’s Shi’ite spiritual leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani urged the Iraqi Parliament to withdraw its support of the prime minister and warned that the escalating violence could lead to a civil war in Iraq. More than 400 Iraqi protesters have been killed and 15,000 injured since the widespread anti-government demonstrations began in October. We speak with Iraqi journalist Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, correspondent for the Guardian newspaper, and Sinan Antoon, poet, novelist, translator and scholar born and raised in Baghdad.

MAY 24, 2019

H16 global strike climate change students walkout greta thunberg

And youth activists in cities around the world have launched another one-day global climate strike that could rival a March 15 action that saw an estimated 1.6 million participants. Organizers, inspired by 16-year-old Swedish high school student Greta Thunberg, say they’re planning more than 1,350 separate strikes in every continent on Earth today—including two strikes in Antarctica. This is 19-year-old activist Marta Macías from Madrid, Spain.

Marta Macías: “It’s estimated we have 11 years before climate change is irreversible. And if we don’t take the necessary measures over these 11 years, we will end up without a planet. I want to defend my life on this planet, as well as the survival of my species and all of the other species that live on it.”

MAR 01, 2019 –Teen Climate Activist to Sen. Dianne Feinstein: We Need the Green New Deal to Prevent the Apocalypse

“We’re the ones affected.” Those are the words of youth climate activists who confronted California Senator Dianne Feinstein last week in San Francisco, demanding she sign on to the Green New Deal. In a video of the interaction that has since been seen across the country, Feinstein dismissed the children—some as young as 7 years old—asking her to take bold action on climate change. We speak with the youth climate activists who confronted the senator: 16-year-old Isha Clarke, 12-year-old Rio and his 10-year-old sister Magdalena.

January 3, 2019 – On Her Shoulders: Stunning Film Follows Nobel Peace Winner Nadia Murad’s Fight to End Sexual Violence.

Democracy Now presents the remarkable story of Nadia Murad, the Yazidi human rights activist from Iraq who was recently awarded the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize. Murad was kidnapped by the Islamic State in 2014 and repeatedly raped as she was held in captivity. After managing to escape, Murad fled Iraq and has dedicated her life to drawing international attention to the plight of the Yazidi people. The documentary “On Her Shoulders” follows Murad as she shares her story with the world. It has been shortlisted for an Academy Award for Best Documentary and recently received the Columbia Journalism duPont Award. Democracy now speaks with the film’s award-winning director Alexandria Bombach.

December 14, 2018 – 15 y.o. Greta Thunberg’s presents at the U.N. climate summit.

Heeding Call of Greta Thunberg, Polish Students Walk Out of Class upon hearing the words of 15-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg upon her presentation at the U.N. climate summit the previous night (note link below) – her dad driving their electric car through the night so she could sit in front of the Swedish parliament once again, where she goes every Friday in a school strike against climate change. Here in Katowice, Poland, at least 30 local high school students answered Greta’s call, walking out of classes today and carrying their message here to the COP. The group sang and chanted while sitting on the steps of the main conference hall, holding signs that said “12 years left” and “#ClimateStrike.” This is student Gosia Chehowska speaking with Democracy Now!’s Carla Wills.

December 13, 2018 – Democracy Now presents fifteen-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg addressing the U.N. plenary on December 12, 2018 in Katowice, Poland, as she condemns global inaction in the face of catastrophic climate change. Her couageous challenge … “You are stealing our Future!

Willamette University student Arabella Wood, right, gathers with others at a rally in Eugene, Ore., Monday, Oct. 29, 2018, to support a high-profile climate change lawsuit brought by 21 young people against the federal government. Trial was set to begin in federal court in Eugene Monday morning. But the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily halted the proceedings to decide whether the case should move forward. (Andy Nelson/The Register-Guard via AP)

November 3, 2018 – Supreme Court Rejects White House Move To Block Teens’ Climate Change Lawsuit. The Supreme Court refused a Trump administation application to halt an intriguing climate change lawsuit filed by a group of young people against the U.S. government.

September 26, 2014 – Joshua Wong, a fourteen-year-old harmless-looking youngster served as one of the leaders of the Umbrella Revolution, a pro-democracy movement that barricaded itself in downtown Hong Kong. As a series of sit-in street protests called the Umbrella Revolution and at times used interchangeably with Umbrella Movement, its initial protests occurred in Hong Kong from 26 September to 15 December 2014. While Wong’s activism began when he was just fourteen founding the student organisation, Scholarism, which reached its peak when in over two months in 2016, it birthed the largest political demonstration in China since the Tiananmen massacre, more than 1.5 million people protested against the Beijing government.

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