The battle against climate change must start in education.
But fighting this crisis is about more than just the facts.
The youth strike movement has already been etched into every history book about to be written. When protests are transformative in themselves, when they are radical, when they are grassroots and genuine - these are actions we cannot ignore, and indeed the young people of the world have already made their mark on the fight for climate justice.
These are not the first student protests, and they will undoubtedly not be the last. So why is it that we are continually surprised by young people taking to the streets? Why do the newsreaders, the aging anchors, the live-on-the-scene reporters contort their faces into shock, astonishment branding itself onto every syllable of their exhaustingly repetitive story - the tale of young people who changed everything?
As someone who’s grown up shy, timid, and afraid, and only recently found her voice and her pride as a result of being able to organise and protest, I know all too well that the growing youth climate movement is a place of rejuvenation, empowerment, and a glorious elation at that self-enfranchisement. The first climate protest I attended back in February was the first time I ever felt like young people were able to express themselves, to find that outlet and use it to scream our fury into the world, making it tangible, making it powerful.
But no one gave us that space. No one gave us that outlet, or told us that there was something we could actually do to change the world - and by doing so, adults forced themselves to forget about our power, too. Hence the balking and gawping journalists, and the furious teachers, who once walked out of school themselves. No one told us about how squeaking young voices have driven numerous social justice movements forward, and we were certainly not told about the young people across the Global South who have been taking action against the climate crisis for decades. So instead, we took up our own space, and empowered ourselves.
Our demand for the educational system to be utterly transformed and revitalised cannot just cover the basic roots of climate change - neoliberalism, colonialism, imperialism, and the capitalist dream of eternal economic growth and perpetual wealth - or the horrific devastation unfolding across our planet. In order to fight climate change, we have to teach children that they are capable of fighting anything, even something that seems so insurmountable, something that is continuously upheld by the systems we live in.
The youth strikers and young climate protestors around the world have been able to do that for themselves, but we have to be prepared for the next disaster, and for the potential of growing backlash against real climate justice and genuine climate solutions. The reform of our educational system must take a greater focus on climate change, but in doing so, it has to take into account what movements have shown us time and time again; the untouchable confidence of young people is the only truly insurmountable thing out there. Why not make sure every young person can access that? Why not bring that into our learning?
Self-enfranchisement through organising and protesting is an incredible thing. But we can accomplish so much more when we are simply just enfranchised, re-engaged, and empowered. To really fight a political crisis, young people must be taught to be brave.