by Lexi Kupor
Media Production Editor
The last Thursday of January marked the fourth consecutive week that students in Belgium placed their planet before their education; 35,000 adolescents skipped classes to protest the growing threats of climate change. Greta Thunberg, a Swedish 16-year-old, inspired the protests after appearing at the 2019 World Economic Forum at Davos in Switzerland.
Joke Schauvliege, a Belgian environment minister from the Flanders region, resigned on Feb. 5 after falsely claiming she had information from the state reporting the protests were a staged event.
In both Brussels and eastern Liege, nearly 12,500 students came out to march, and the protest in Leuven hosted over 3,000 attendees. The protestors included students from both primary and secondary schools in Belgium. Some schools have attempted to persuade their students against attending the marches, yet their efforts have failed.
The movement has impacted youth not only in Belgium, but across Europe. In Germany and Switzerland, similar student-led events take place on Fridays, and protestors have begun to spread the hashtag #FridaysForFuture to publicize their cause.
3,540 Belgian scientists recently published an open letter to spread facts about climate change, in which they claimed that “the activists are absolutely right.” Hoping to alert the public, the scientists explained that political influence is necessary to mobilize and effectively utilize the already existing carbon dioxide emission-reducing technology.
Dedicated to a healthy future for their nation and the planet as a whole, protestors urged politicians to alter their environmental policies and adhere to goals set in 2015 in Paris. The Paris deal involved nearly 200 nations in a unified pact for the health of the planet. Among the goals set forth were the regulation of global temperatures and human greenhouse gas emissions.
Climate change has been a prevalent issue for many years, and its threat continues to rise. In 2013, carbon dioxide concentration was reported to be over 400 parts per million for the first time ever, and average concentrations are expected to reach 411 parts per million this year. Since climate change records have begun to be kept, similar rises to that of the expected one in 2019 have only occurred about six times.
Luka De Wever, the 17-year-old sister of protest organizer of Anuna De Wever, pinpointed the urgency of the cause, stating that “either we act now or there will be no more time to.” Continuing, she explained her belief in the fact that the protests “will be able to make a difference, not only in Belgium, but all over the world.”
(Sources: AP News, BBC News, Clean Technica, Common Dreams, Tacoma News Tribune, The Guardian, The New York Times)