Students worldwide skip class to demand action on climate
By FRANK JORDANS
Friday, March 15
BERLIN (AP) — They’re angry at their elders, and they’re not taking it sitting down.
Students worldwide are skipping class Friday to take to the streets to protest their governments’ failure to take sufficient action against global warming.
The coordinated ‘school strikes,’ being held from the South Pacific to the edge of the Arctic Circle, were inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who began holding solitary demonstrations outside the Swedish parliament last year.
Since then, the weekly protests have snowballed from a handful of cities to hundreds, driven by social media-savvy students and dramatic headlines about the impact of climate change.
Thunberg, who was recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, was cheered for her blunt message to leaders at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland this year, when she told them: “I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day.”
Friday’s rallies are expected to be one of the biggest international actions yet. Protests were underway or planned in cities in more than 100 countries, including Hong Kong; New Delhi; Wellington, New Zealand; and Oulo, Finland.
In Berlin some 10,000 protesters, most of them young students, gathered in a downtown square, waving signs with slogans such as “There is no planet B” and “Climate Protection Report Card: F” before a march through the capital’s government quarter. The march was to end with a demonstration outside Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office.
Organizer Carla Reemtsma, a 20-year-old university student, said social media had been key in reaching people directly to coordinate the massive protests in so many different locations, noting that that she was in 50 WhatsApp groups and fielding some 30,000 messages a day.
“It’s really important that people are getting together all over the world, because it’s affecting us all,” she said.
Some politicians have criticized the students, suggesting they should be spending their time in school, not on the streets.
“One can’t expect children and young people to see all of the global connections, what’s technically reasonable and economically possible,” said the head of Germany’s pro-business Free Democratic Party, Christian Lindner. “That’s a matter for professionals.”
But scientists have backed the protests, with thousands signing petitions in support of the students in Britain, Finland and Germany.
“We are the professionals and we’re saying the young generation is right,” said Volker Quaschning, a professor of engineering at Berlin’s University of Applied Sciences.
“We should be incredibly grateful and appreciative of their bravery,” said Quaschning, one of more than 23,000 German-speaking scientists to sign a letter of support this week. “Because in a sense, it’s incredibly brave not to go to school for once.”
Scientists have warned for decades that current levels of greenhouse gas emissions are unsustainable, so far with little effect. In 2015, world leaders agreed in Paris to a goal of keeping the Earth’s global temperature rise by the end of the century well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).
Yet at present, the world is on track for an increase of 4 degrees Celsius, which experts say would have far-reaching consequences for life on the planet.
“As a doctor, I can say it makes a big difference whether you’ve got a fever of 41 degrees Celsius (105.8 Fahrenheit) or 43 C (109.4 F),” said Eckart von Hirschhausen, a German scientist who signed the call supporting striking students. “One of those is compatible with life, the other isn’t.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron have publicly welcomed the student protests, even as their policies have been criticized as too limited by environmental activists.
In France, activist groups launched legal action this week for failing to do enough to fight climate change, citing a similar successful effort in the Netherlands .
In Germany, environmental groups and experts have attacked government plans to continue using coal and natural gas for decades to come. Activists say that countries like Germany should fully “decarbonize” by 2040, giving less-advanced nations a bit more time to wean themselves off fossil fuels while still meeting the Paris goal globally.
Other changes needed to curb greenhouse gas emissions include ramping up renewable energy production, reining in over-consumption culture now spreading beyond the industrialized West and changing diets, experts say.
“The fight against climate change is going to be uncomfortable, in parts, and we need to have a society-wide discussion about this,” said Quaschning.
That conversation is likely to get louder, with several U.S. presidential hopefuls planning to campaign on climate change.
Luisa Neubauer, one of the Berlin group organizing Fridays for Future, said politicians should take note of the young.
“For the European elections in May, we’re urging everyone to think about whether they want to give their vote to a party that doesn’t have a plan for the future and the climate,” she said.
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Analysis: Student Protesters Over Climate Part of Well-Planned P.R. Strategy
By Erin Mundahl
On Friday, students around the world walked out of class to protest climate change, seemingly inspired by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old whose weekly protests outside the Swedish parliament have earned her a Nobel Peace Prize nomination.
However, newly released documents from the University of Oregon show that environmentalists have been planning for years to exploit the optics of children’s protest marches to increase support for their cause.
Student walk-out protests were planned in more than 100 nations, as well as 100 U.S. cities, and the movement has received international media coverage. New documents posted online on Climate Litigation Watch show that activists planned early on to use children and young adults to garner support for their cause.
The emails refer to a now-infamous meeting in La Jolla, California, in 2012, where environmental attorneys laid out a strategy to link big oil companies to global warming through a series of lawsuits modeled after those that took down Big Tobacco. This meeting foreshadowed not only the ExxonKnew lawsuits seeking internal company records in 2015 but also the lawsuits against major oil companies that were filed by New York, Baltimore, Oakland and other cities seeking damages for harms caused by global warming.
At the meeting, Mary Christina Wood, professor of law at the University of Oregon, discussed atmospheric trust litigation, a legal strategy that she developed. The theory argues that a state or corporation can be held liable for damaging a resource held in the public trust.
Environmentalists thought that this legal strategy had “several attractive features” in part because the lawsuits could be brought by children. Using children as the leading voices would achieve another one of their goals: finding an “emotionally resonant” narrative. Slides from her talk highlight how children’s stories are important to gain sympathy for the cause.
A recurring theme through the released documents is the question of how to frame the climate change issue in order to increase awareness and push the public to act. The documents, which include session minutes and schedules, show that the participants discussed this problem many times. The key, they agreed, was coming together around a narrative.
“While we lack a compelling public narrative about climate change today in the United States, we may be close to coalescing around one,” reads a summary of the strategy workshop. “Such a narrative must be both robust and emotionally resonant to cut through the distraction and uncertainty that has made it possible for the fossil fuel industry to sow confusion.”
Part of this narrative was a press strategy promoting “worldwide” youth climate marches, and documentaries highlighting the stories of youth leaders.
The youngest of the leaders of the U.S. Youth Climate Strike would have been around 5 years old when the meeting took place. However, environmentalists were already planning for someone like her to be an attractive face for the green movement.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Erin Mundahl is a reporter with InsideSources.com.
Climate strikes: researcher explains how young people can keep up the momentum
March 18, 2019
Author: Harriet Thew, PhD Researcher in Climate Change Governance, University of Leeds
Disclosure statement: Harriet Thew does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: University of Leeds provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation UK.
As part of one of the largest environmental protests ever seen, over a million young people went on strike on Friday March 15 2019, calling for more ambitious action on climate change. Inspired by Greta Thunberg, a Swedish school girl who protested outside the Swedish parliament every Friday throughout 2018, young people in over 100 countries left their classrooms and took to the streets.
The previous #YouthStrike4Climate on February 15 2019 mobilised over 10,000 young people in over 40 locations in the UK alone. Their marches, chants and signs captured attention and prompted debates regarding the motivations and methods of young strikers. Many were criticised by those in the government and the media for simply wanting an opportunity to miss school.
My PhD research explores youth participation in climate change governance, focusing on the UN climate negotiations. Between 2015 and 2018 I closely studied the Youth Climate Coalition (UKYCC) – a UK based, voluntary, youth-led group of 18 to 29 year olds – which attends the international negotiations and coordinates local and national climate change campaigns.
My research shows that young people are mobilised by concern for people and wildlife, fears for the future and anger that climate action is neither sufficiently rapid nor ambitious. Young people need to feel as though they are “doing something” about climate change while politicians dither and scientists release increasingly alarming projections of future climate conditions.
The strikes have helped young activists find like-minded peers and new opportunities to engage. They articulate a collective youth voice, wielding the moral power of young people – a group which society agrees it is supposed to protect. All the same, there are threats to sustaining the movement’s momentum which need to be recognised now.
Challenge misplaced paternalism
The paternalism that gives youth a moral platform is a double-edged sword. Patronising responses from adults in positions of authority, from head teachers to the prime minister, dismiss their scientifically informed concerns and attack the messenger, rather than dealing with the message itself.
You’re too young to understand the complexity of this.
You’ll grow out of these beliefs.
You just want to skip school.
Stay in school and wait your turn to make a difference.
Striking may hurt your future job prospects.
The list goes on …
This frightens some children and young people into silence, but doesn’t address the factors which mobilised them in the first place. These threats are also largely unfounded.
Read more: Climate change: a climate scientist answers questions from teenagers
To any young person reading this, I want to reassure you, as a university educator, that critical thinking, proactivity and an interest in current affairs are qualities that universities encourage. Over 200 academics signed this open letter – myself included – showing our support for the school strikes.
Don’t ‘grow up’
Growing up is inevitable, but it can cause problems for youth movements. As young people gain experience of climate action and expand their professional networks, they “grow out of” being able to represent youth, often getting jobs to advocate for other groups or causes. While this can be positive for individuals, institutional memory is lost when experienced advocates move on to do other things. This puts youth at a disadvantage in relation to other groups who are better resourced and don’t have a “time limit” in how long they can represent their cause.
Well-established youth organisations, such as Guides and Scouts, whom I have worked with in the past, can use their large networks and professional experience to sustain youth advocacy on climate change, though they lack the resources to do so alone. It would also help for other campaigners to show solidarity with the young strikers, and to recognise youth as an important group in climate change debates. This will give people more opportunity to keep supporting the youth climate movement as they get older.
Grow the climate justice movement
Researching the same group of young people for three years, I have identified a shift in their attitudes over time. As young participants become more involved in the movement, they encounter different types of injustices voiced by other groups. They hear activists sharing stories of the devastating climate impacts already experienced by communities, in places where sea level rise is inundating homes and droughts are killing livestock and causing starvation.
The climate justice movement emphasises how climate change exacerbates racial and economic inequality but frequently overlooks the ways these inequalities intersect with age-based disadvantages. Forgetting that frontline communities contain young people, youth movements in developed countries like the UK begin to question the validity of their intergenerational injustice claims.
Many feel ashamed for having claimed vulnerability, given their relatively privileged position. Over time, they lose faith in their right to be heard. It would strengthen the entire climate movement if other climate justice campaigners more vocally acknowledged young people as a vulnerable group and shared their platform so that these important voices could better amplify one another.
With my own platform, I would like to say this to the thousands who went on strike. You matter. You have a right to be heard and you shouldn’t be embarrassed to speak out. Have confidence in your message, engage with others but stay true to your principles. Stick together and remember that even when you leave school and enter work – you’re never too old to be a youth advocate.
Climate change is inevitable. Our response to it isn’t.
Opinion: We Know Less Than We Think About Hate Crimes
By Walter Olson
After Jussie Smollett’s story fell apart, a Minnesota state lawmaker suggested toughening penalties for false police reports, an idea promptly shot down by his chamber’s Democratic majority leader: “We should be encouraging people to report.”
Should we? Does it matter whether the reports are true?
The way some advocates tell it, hate crime reports are sharply on the upswing and hardly ever prove unfounded.
Start with the second point. Quoting a center at a California university, the New York Times reported recently that “of an estimated 21,000 hate crime cases between 2016 and 2018, fewer than 50 reports were found to be false.”
That’s a curiously low figure, one that depends crucially on the artful phrasing “found to be false.”
If someone withdraws a disintegrating allegation and the police simply drop the matter, the incident has not been “found to be false.” The same is true if the bogus report, as often happens, arises on a college campus where police never get involved in the first place.
From the Times’ wording you might think that of the sorts of claimed hate crimes that ignite social media frenzies, only a fraction of 1 percent prove false. You’d be ever so wrong. While only a minority of alleged hate incidents draw much public notice, examples of bogus hate crime claims that did gain attention have been variously catalogued at more than 400.
In a continuing Twitter thread that has gone viral, Oregon journalist Andy Ngo has strung together dozens of click-and-share outrages later to blow up, such as that of a faculty member at Central Michigan University who punched herself in the face and lied about it “to bring awareness to LGBT issues.”
Other instances result from the social-justice version of pareidolia, the pattern-finding tendency that leads people to find the face of a saint in a piece of toast. A report of a KKK hood at Ohio’s Bowling Green State University turned out to be a white cloth draped over a piece of lab equipment. A supposed noose at Michigan State turned out to be a lost shoelace.
In 2015 both the New York Times and the Washington Post investigated a seeming wave of church arsons and concluded that there was no indication of hate motivation. Church fires turn out to be surprisingly common.
Other times the crimes are sinister indeed but the motivations were not those that were guessed. The perpetrator of more than 2,000 bomb threats that terrorized Jewish institutions around the U.S. turned out to be a disturbed Israeli teenager.
Some hate crimes, we know, are horrifyingly real, such as the murderous assaults by lone gunmen on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018, a Charleston, S.C., church in 2015, a Sikh temple in Wisconsin in 2012, and Freddie’s Fashion Mart in Harlem in 1995.
Are such crimes on the upswing? An oft-repeated talking point is that FBI statistics last year, to quote Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), “revealed a 17 percent increase in the number of hate crimes in America.”
Let’s be polite and say those FBI figures are difficult to interpret.
To begin with, they’re based on purely voluntary reporting by law enforcement agencies around the country. Agencies in Mississippi — the whole state — reported exactly one hate crime. Arkansas reported five and Alabama eight. Relatively liberal states like Massachusetts and Washington reported hundreds apiece, which doesn’t mean they have more hate crimes.
Moreover, the number of local agencies participating in the FBI survey rose by 1,000 in 2017, contributing to the higher count.
In the state of Oregon, the college town of Eugene reported 72 hate crimes to the FBI in 2017, about as many as the rest of the state put together. According to the Daily Emerald, the difference reflects “the city’s active approach. … The city carefully catalogs reported instances … and even classifies certain crimes — such as vandalism — as a hate crime that other cities would classify in a different way.”
Word is that the Eugene approach is spreading as other cities get interested in steps such as asking officers to write up on their own initiative as a hate incident a graffiti epithet they might see, rather than only if a public complaint happens to come in.
Should those methods spread in coming years, the FBI count of reported hate incidents is sure to mount — yet still not demonstrate with any certainty a genuine rise.
We know less about this topic than we imagine.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Walter Olson is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.