Now it’s the turn of the Belgian students who join the growing movement of young people, skipping school to demand climate action worldwide. For climate action, around 12,500 Belgian students marched in Brussels on Thursday as reported by Belgian Police.
16-year-old demonstrator Mariam told BBC News in a video, “There is actually no point going to school if our world is going to die.”
The Associated Press reported about the students who marched in rainy weather with messages like “School strike 4 Climate” and “Skipping school? No. We fight for our future,”
According to The Brussels Times reported Jan. 11, Thursday’s march drew around 3,000 students, and this was larger than the initial protest that took place last week. The first march included students from the Flemish school system only but on Thursday students from French-speaking schools also joined the students who took part in the initial protest as per a further report from The Brussels Times.
Still, the number of the student in the first march was larger than anticipated, and they wanted to demonstrate in a square outside the Central station. However, they could not fit as their numbers were too big, therefore marched towards the Rue de la Loi and Cinquantenaire. Students ended with a sit-in in European Parliament.
17-year-old Anuna De Wever, one of the two organizers in the first protest, told The Brussels Times “the only way for us to bring pressure to bear is to stay away from classes, like workers who decide to strike.”
Until the government announces an effective action plan for fighting climate change, the students want to convert the protests into weekly events.
On VRT news, De Wever announced her terms:
I want to hear politicians say that they’re going to do something about the problem. I want the climate to be a priority in politics.
Now they changed the organization structure to accommodate larger marches. Instead of two, currently, 12 representatives are coordinating the events with a sound system crowdfunded by the students.
Initially, schools were firm about the absenteeism and considered it as a breach of school policy and law, but this week some schools permitted students if they produce a selfie showing that they had skipped for the protest.
One local school director in support of the students spoke to De Standaard newspaper.
“Education has to turn youngsters into mature citizens,” Patrick Lancksweerdt told De Standaard, as reported in The Associated Press. “By their actions, they proved that they are.”
The inspiration of the students is Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, a direct descendant of Svante Arrhenius, the Swedish chemist who predicted global heating from carbon emissions in 1896 and who started striking from school in her own country last year demanding the significant systemic changes to limit greenhouse gas emissions and avert catastrophic climate change.
Addressing some 10,000 people in Helsinki last October end, Greta said “Today we use 100 million barrels of oil every day. There are no politics to change that. There are no rules to keep that oil in the ground, so we can’t save the world by playing by the rules because the rules have to change. Everything needs to change, and it has to start today.”
“A lot of people say that Sweden or Finland are just small countries and that it doesn’t matter what we do,” Thunberg added. “But I think that if a few children can get headlines all over the world just by not going to school for a few weeks, imagine what we could do together if we wanted to.”
As told to BBC News by Azra, 16-year-old Belgian student striker “I’ve seen the interviews and what she said and it definitely inspired me to come here today and to join this movement.”
In December, Greta also gave a rousing speech at the COP24 meeting in Katowice, Poland. Speaking on behalf of Climate Justice, she said “Until you start focusing on what needs to be done rather than what is politically possible, there is no hope. We can’t solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis. We need to keep the fossil fuels in the ground.”
Thunberg pointed out in COP24 “If solutions within the system are so impossible to find, maybe we should change the system itself,” and she spoke directly to the errors and injustice of our economic system. “Our biosphere is being sacrificed so that rich people in countries like mine can live in luxury. It is the sufferings of the many which pay for the luxuries of the few.”
It is not about Sweden or Belgium only. Last November, thousands of students in Australia skipped the school for the planned School Strike 4 Climate Action to protest the slow action of the Government on climate change.