Saving the Planet is Up to the Youth

On Friday, February 15th 2019, secondary school students in London walked out of their classrooms and onto Parliament Square in order to demand that their elected officials take serious action to combat climate change. Thousands of students showed up to protests in 60 towns organized by the UK Student Climate Network, an online network connecting young activists across Britain. In a statement, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Theresa May criticized the students for disrupting teacher workloads, and the wife of Environmental Secretary Michael Grove characterized them as exploiting the protest as a means of getting out of schoolwork. However, these striking students are not alone.

Photo credit: Getty Images

These protests were part of a movement that is making waves throughout Europe which shows that young people are demanding action be taken to combat climate change. These actions, including skipping school, were inspired in part by 16-year-old environmental activist Greta Thunberg. Since January, tens of thousands of students in Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, France, and many other countries have used this method to raise awareness about climate change via the Schools 4 Climate Action movement.

Already seeing the destructive and potentially catastrophic impacts of unrestricted carbon emissions and careless environmental policy, these young people are pressuring older lawmakers to take drastic and urgent actions to protect the environment. Their arguments include that existing regulations (such as Theresa May’s 25-year climate plan) are too vague and slow. They also cite President Trump’s disbelief in the mere existence of climate change as yet another reason why Europe needs to take the lead on strong environmental legislation.

Photo credit: BBC News

While the United States has not yet seen a similar student-led strike for more dramatic environmental policy changes, many young people are taking a stand. In a time where our president wholeheartedly supports coal power, has pulled our country out of the Paris Climate Accords, and lacks even a basic understanding of how global warming works, a group of activists between the ages of 11 and 22 are suing the United States and many executive branch officials. These lawsuits are based on how the country’s lack of action to counter the effects of climate change (such as catastrophic flooding, storm surges, and drought, among others) were a violation of their fundamental human rights. Known as the Juliana Plaintiffs, this diverse group began its fight before many of its members were even old enough to vote, showing that there are many ways to make one’s voice heard beyond the ballot box. Each of them has been an outspoken advocate for societal action, a necessity in a time where just 100 companies produce over 70 percent of all carbon emissions.

Fortunately, their calls to action have not been ignored. In a landmark decision last October, a federal court in Oregon ruled that Juliana v. United States could go to trial. Although it has since been postponed and it is unclear whether that trial will ever occur, this is still a major step forward in the fight to hold governments accountable for propelling younger generations and the plant into a perilous state.

Photo credit: Clayton Aldern via Grist

How can we as BU students take action like so many children and teenagers across the globe are? Luckily, there are many ways to get involved in Boston. One way is to connect with state and citywide initiatives for climate justice, such as the Boston Climate Action Network (a local chapter of the Massachusetts Climate Action Network), where you can volunteer your time in order to defend environmentally friendly legislation. Another way you could contribute is by volunteering throughout Boston with organizations devoted to sustainability and conservation (one of my favorites is Massachusetts Audubon). Finally, you can work towards encouraging our university’s administration to contribute more in the fight against climate change right here on campus. Although BU has created a goal of going carbon neutral by the year 2040, there are still many aspects of campus life that can be improved.


Whether it is organizing to pull all of BU’s money out of fossil fuel companies with Divest BU, implementing initiatives such as a mug wall at the Questrom Starbucks with the Environmental Student Organization, or even just contacting people in power via email or social media to voice your suggestions or concerns, you too can join the global movement to end inaction. After all, it is our generation’s future that is at stake.


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