Over two thousand Israelis, mainly youth, took to the streets of Tel Aviv on Friday, joining a second wave of worldwide protests demanding swift action on climate change.
The participants in the “Students for Climate Change” demonstration gathered at the coastal city’s Great Synagogue on Allenby street and marched up Rothschild Boulevard to Habima Square.
The protests were inspired by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, who spoke to world leaders this week at a United Nations summit in New York.
“This is a real existential crisis, so nothing makes more sense than taking to the streets and demanding a [better] future,” 16-year-old Or Yehuda resident Tamar Avraham told the Ynet news site.
“The environmental issue is not even in the top ten of priorities of the government, which is very serious issue,” she added. “There is no point in dealing with anything else if we cannot sustain life on earth. This is a security crisis in every way, but for some reason, Israel’s is not taking it seriously.”
“I feel that the politicians and the government are not doing enough to solve the climate crisis. They continue to support factories that emit a lot of greenhouse gases,” 14-year-old Rishon Lezion native Evelyn Weisburg told Ynet. “I want to put pressure on the politicians so they understand that this is an emergency and that action is needed now. This is something that affects everyone’s future so it should be their top priority.”
Maya Van Gelder of the Green Course NGO urged the government to recognize the crisis we are in and declare a climate emergency.
“The climate crisis is going to hit us all, especially in the Middle East, and its signals are already being felt here in Israel and around the world,” she said. “We need citizens and the government to unite [with the rest of the world] and take every effort to prevent the situation [from getting worse.]”
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) September 27, 2019
Friday’s rallies kicked off in New Zealand, where young people marched on Parliament in Wellington, holding one of the largest protests ever held there. Organizers in the capital were forced to change their security plans to accommodate the crowds, while thousands more marched in Auckland and other parts of the country.
On the other side of the planet, more than 100,000 rallied in Italy’s capital, Rome, where protesters held up signs with slogans such as “Change the system, not the climate” or just the word “Future.”
Marches took place in about 180 locations across Italy, including the country’s financial hub of Milan where one banner read “How dare you!” — the accusation Thunberg, 16, leveled at world leaders during her UN speech in New York on Monday. The Italian Education Ministry said students attending the event would not be penalized for missing school.
Fears about the impact of global warming on the younger generation were expressed by schoolchildren in Dharmsala, India. South Asia depends heavily on water from the Himalayan glaciers that are under threat from climate change.
In Berlin, activists from the Fridays for Future group braved persistent rain to protest against a package the German government recently agreed for cutting the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. Experts say the proposal falls far short of what’s needed if the world’s sixth biggest emitter is to meet the goal of the Paris climate accord.
Actor Javier Bardem joined dozens of young people in San Sebastian in one of several early demonstrations and rallies held across Spain on Friday morning ahead of evening demonstrations to be held in the major towns and cities. They are expected to draw big crowds, especially in Madrid and Barcelona.
Bardem was in San Sebastian to promote a documentary he worked on with Greenpeace.
Thunberg said she planned to attend a protest in Montreal.
In Wellington, 18-year-old university student Katherine Rivers said it was great to see young people taking action and personal responsibility by marching.
“New Zealand leading the way into Friday nr 2 in #WeekForFuture,” she tweeted. “Good luck everyone striking around the world. Change is coming!!”
“We need to stop pandering to some of the people who are making money off climate change. The big oil companies, the dairy industry etc.,” she said. “And make a change for the future of these kids that are here.”
While thousands of high school students elected to take time off school to protest, many adults also joined the marches. One of them was 83-year-old grandmother-of-three Violet McIntosh.
“It’s not my future we’re thinking about,” McIntosh said. She said it was time politicians should listen to young people like Thunberg, whom she described as “amazing.”
“She stood out there by herself to start it all. Millions of people are following her now,” McIntosh said. “She should be very proud of herself.”
In the Netherlands, where thousands joined a protest in The Hague, some participants acknowledged that getting politicians to take action against global warming was only part of the story.
“It’s also about then leading sustainable lives and making changes to make your life more sustainable,” said Utrecht University student Beth Meadows.
German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said part of the government’s plan is to encourage citizens to shift their behavior.
“People, and businesses too, know that over the coming years, step by step, behavior that harms the climate (and) causes a lot of emissions will have a higher price than before,” Seibert told reporters in Berlin.