Greta Thunberg, famous teenage climate activist, has recently called on student protesters all over the world to join in on weekly “digital strikes” amid the coronavirus pandemic. The 17-year-old told her supporters that for the time being, large protests should be replaced by online demonstrations in order to contain the spread of the disease while maintaining the momentum of the climate movement. Just as she urges people to “unite behind the science” on the climate emergency, Thunberg says the same approach needs to be taken to address the public health crisis.
Thunberg is asking her fellow young climate activists all over the world to avoid big gatherings and protests due to the coronavirus pandemic, and to join in on weekly digital strikes by posting pictures with the hashtag #ClimateStrikeOnline. On Twitter, Thunberg urged for the world to “unite behind experts and the science” to tackle both the threat posed by the coronavirus and climate change.
“The climate and ecological crisis is the biggest crisis humanity has ever faced,” she said, adding that “we’ll have to find new ways to create public awareness and advocate for change that [won’t] involve too big crowds. Listen to local authorities,” she said.
Thunberg recently revealed that she had “very likely” fallen ill to Covid-19. She did not get tested for the coronavirus in Sweden due to local guidelines about emergency medical treatment, but she had been displaying symptoms of cough, shivers and a sore throat after her trip to Central Europe with her father, and spent two weeks in self-isolation away from her family as a precautionary measure.
Governments around the world have been urging people to stay at home as much as possible and maintain social distance with others in order to flatten the curb of the spread of the virus. Strict lockdowns have been put in place, affecting around a third of the global population. Border shutdowns and travel restrictions have been implemented by many countries worldwide, and is expected to persist for the next weeks and months ahead.
Other major environmental events have also fallen victim to the coronavirus and have been either postponed or cancelled, such as all the in-person United Nations talks on climate change that were scheduled to be held in Bonn, Germany between March and end of April this year. Some events have been held virtually, such as the IPCC’s lead authors meeting in early March and Earth Hour 2020, which was celebrated digitally across 160 countries, including in Hong Kong.
The latest environmental event to be postponed until next year is Cop26, the 26th conference of the parties under the Paris Agreement, which was originally scheduled to take place in November this year in Glasgow. Fears have been mounting over the past few weeks that postponing the critical climate change summit would delay the much needed action from governments to put in place more stringent greenhouse gas reductions to limit temperature rise. Current targets are expected to lead to a rise of 3 degrees celsius, which scientists say would lead to detrimental consequences.
Climate activists have been critical of governmental inaction over the climate crisis, which pales in comparison to the response that leaders have shown to the pandemic. The level of urgency that scientists have reiterated is necessary to combat climate change has yet to take place for the single biggest threat to the planet today, but governments have shown that swift, fast and comprehensive measures can be implemented as long as the urgency is understood and is backed by political will.
Lead image courtesy of Fridays For Future Bangladesh / Greta Thunberg / Mulindwa Moses / Vanessa Nakate.