Protest by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg snowballs to last day of World Economic Forum
Damian CarringtonFirst published on Thu 24 Jan 2019 11.28 GMT
The 16-year-old activist behind the fast-growing School Strikes 4 Climate Action has taken her campaign to the streets of Davos, to confront world leaders and business chiefs about the global emissions crisis.
Greta Thunberg, whose solo protest outside Sweden’s parliament has snowballed across the globe, will join a strike by Swiss schoolchildren in the ski resort on Friday – the final day of the World Economic Forum.
Thunberg travelled by train for 32 hours to reach Davos, and spent Wednesday night camped with climate scientists on the mountain slopes – where temperatures plunged to -18C.
Having already addressed the UN Climate Change COP 24 conference, Thunberg is rapidly becoming the voice for a generation who are demanding urgent action to slow the rise in global temperatures.
As she travelled down Davos’s funicular railway from the Arctic Base Camp – while more than 30,000 students were striking in Belgium – Thunberg said the rapid growth of her movement was “incredible”.
“There have been climate strikes, involving students and also adults, on every continent except Antarctica. It has involved tens of thousands of children.”
Thunberg started her protest by striking for three weeks outside the Swedish parliament, lobbying MPs to comply with the Paris Agreement. After the Swedish election, she continued to strike every Friday, where she is now joined by hundreds of people.
“This Friday I can’t be there,” she told the Guardian. “So I will have to do it here in Davos, and send a message that this is the only thing that matters.”
Students around the world have been inspired by Thunberg, with thousands skipping school in Australia in November. Last Friday there were strikes in Germany, Belgium and Switzerland, where more than 20,000 students skipped school.
Missing gym class, geography and religion each Friday is something of a sacrifice for Thunberg, who says she loves school and can’t pick a favourite subject.
“I like all subjects. I love learning, which people maybe don’t think about me.”
She’s also been forced to give up her hobbies, as climate change activism has taken more of her time. “I used to play theatre, sing, dance, play an instrument, ride horses, lots of things.”
She’s sanguine, though, pointing out that climate activism is much more important: “You have to see the bigger perspective.”
Thunberg said she would like more students to join her strike. “That would have a huge impact, but I’m not going to force anyone to do this.”
In the UK, only a small number of students have so far begun strikes, including 13-year-old Holly Gillibrand in Fort William. But plans are now being made for a big strike on 15 February. Thunberg predicts there will be protests in many locations.
She believes parents should be supportive if their children tell them they’re striking on Friday. “Everyone keeps saying that the young people should be more active, and they’re so lazy, but once we do something we get criticised.”
The world’s scientists warned in October that, without a dramatic ramping up of action to cut emissions, global temperatures would rise by more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, with severe consequences for humanity.
Thunberg believes the older generations need to acknowledge that they have failed to protect the environment.
“We need to hold the older generations accountable for the mess they have created, and expect us to live with. It is not fair that we have to pay for what they have caused,” she says.