Photography Nancy Musinguzi

from uganda to tokyo: meet the kids of the global climate strike movement

Students are rising up, rejecting complacency, and demanding the planet — and their futures — be protected. They're united in one of the most powerful youth-led movements the world has ever seen.

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25 April 2019, 11:33pm

Photography Nancy Musinguzi

This story originally appeared in i-D's The Voice of a Generation Issue, no. 356, Summer 2019. Pre-order your copy here.

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Photography Ivan Ruberto

Anna Taylor, 18, London, UK

“The youth strike movement has been so powerful because it’s so unexpected to hear such young people talking in plain terms about the way in which our economic system and our politicians have failed us. When you have children telling adults they don’t have a future, that’s really powerful.”

Why are you striking for the climate? Action is needed and urgently. We’re running out of time to address the climate crisis and young people the world over are rising up to demand that those in positions of power make the changes necessary. Tell us about UK Student Climate Network and what you’re fighting for...The UKSCN is made up of thousands of people striking for the climate all around the UK. We’re young, diverse and we’re not going to stop until those in positions of power change course, step up and become real climate leaders. Why is climate change the most important issue we face? Climate change encompasses so many different issues, and is intrinsically linked with economic and social justice, as well as structural oppressions within society. People around the world are already suffering the effects of climate breakdown. The situation is only going to get worse, which is why we need to act immediately. Tell us about the youth strike movement in the UK... It has exploded in popularity. From a few isolated events to the first nationwide action in February with 20,000 young people demonstrating around the country. In March we then saw 50,000 in over 150 towns and cities, with 20,000 students in London alone! People are talking about climate change, politicians are looking to meet with us to hear our demands. Adults are being inspired. Were changing the face of the climate movement. What’s next? We’re going to start campaigning around tangible policies, centred around a Green New Deal in the UK. We’re drawing inspiration from the Sunrise Movement in the USA, and looking to make sure climate justice is at the very forefront of everything we do! PHOTOGRAPHY IVAN RUBERTO.

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Photography Davey Adesida

Nadia Nazar, 16, Baltimore, US

“Whenever I’m at a climate rally I can feel the unity, it’s absolutely surreal. There is a massive feeling of hope, strength and power that flows through my body.”

Tell us about your environmental activism, how did you get involved with striking and with Zero Hour? I have been an activist since I was 12, when I used my voice for animals. I became an environmentalist at 14 when I learned about human-induced climate change. I co-founded Zero Hour with some online friends located across the country and we first organised the Youth Climate March on July 21 2018! What does climate justice mean and why does it matter? It means people are impacted differently by climate change, especially due to systems of oppression including racism, patriarchy, colonialism and more. Climate justice is crucial because we need to make sure every single person is uplifted through climate solutions, we can't keep bringing people down, especially on an issue that is going to have to unite a significant proportion of the population to solve. How does climate change currently affect the US? If affects the US differently in different regions. We've seen the California wildfires, the polar vortex, many hurricanes and more. The global south as been feeling the affects of climate change for a while now. It's unfortunate that those with the least emissions are typically affected first and worst. Why has the youth strike movement made such an impact? It has emphasised how many youth actually care so deeply about their lives in relation to this crisis. There is something powerful about a generation fighting back, especially a generation that will be first affected by climate change but is also the last generation to do something about it. PHOTOGRAPHY DAVEY ADESIDA.

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Photography Fumi Homma

Minori Watabe, 21, Tokyo, Japan

Tell us about your environmental activism. I do what I can do in my daily life, like avoiding plastic bags, not buying beverages in plastic bottles, things like that. I kind of felt anxious for no specific reason, but after finding out about this global action, I now realise the issue affects our future so seriously that students must demand action, and that we need to stand up and share our voices. We had two protests in February and March in Japan, but our actions aren’t widely known yet. Words like “strike” and “protest” have negative connotations for Japanese people, so it is not easy to act in this country. We would like to seek a more relevant way for Japan. Why do you think the youth strike movement has made such an impact? Honestly I have no idea. But right after Greta took action, the movement rapidly expanded into other countries, which proves there are many students worried about the current situation. In our society students taking part in climate strikes and delivering sincere words could have an impact. It’s not easy for youth to be heard widely in our society, but here we have made it happen. It sparks a chain reaction and it gets bigger. How does it feel, being part of a strong, united youth movement that stretches around the world? I am very impressed. We still have a long way to go. I feel like we are being left behind by the world, when comparing the scale of protests. But I am sure it has a significant meaning to start taking action in Japan and in Asia. We’re just a small number of students and we might change nothing, but we have peers all over the world. This greatly encourages us and gives us hope. PHOTOGRAPHY FUMI HOMMA

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Photography Fumi Homma

Aina Koide, 21, Tokyo, Japan

“Why don’t we cooperate to protect nature from climate change? It would be the first time all people on the Earth united together.”

What have you learned from taking part in the strikes? I realised how negative the image of strikes and protests are in Japan. But I also saw plenty of students who are eager to take action to save the Earth. Can you talk about the idea of climate justice? It means that we need to consider developing countries, future generations and non-human creatures, instead of just focusing on developed countries. Developed countries like Japan should take responsibility. What’s the strike movement like in Japan? Is it growing? At the first action only 20 people participated, but at the second one 130 people were there. It’s still much smaller than other countries but it’s growing and we now gather not only in Tokyo but also in Kyoto. It’s becoming bigger and bigger. For the second gathering we walked around Shibuya so I think the #FridaysForFuture movement has become better known. How does climate change currently affect Japan? In 2018, a heat wave swept the country from July to September, resulting in more than 80,000 people being taken to hospital and many people died. In western Japan, torrential rains killed at least 100 people. These events made me realise that climate change undoubtedly affects this country. PHOTOGRAPHY FUMI HOMMA.

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Photography Nancy Musinguzi

Isra Hirsi, 16, Minneapolis, US

“Without fighting climate change, we won’t have anything left to fight for.”

Why are you striking for the climate? I'm striking because my communities are at risk, my future is at risk and so are future generations' chances for a liveable planet. How did you get involved with striking? I got involved through Haven Coleman. Before she contacted me I wasn't aware of the strikes. I'm also part of a state-wide climate youth group called MN Can't Wait. How does climate change affect the US? Climate change will cause the coasts to go under water, the middle to freeze and the south to overheat. It's talked about a lot where I'm from because of the polar vortex and the oil pipeline. Your generation and those that come after will be most affected by climate change. What do you want to say to those in power who should be protecting our future, but are failing to do so? Being selfish doesn't protect your seat in office! The youth will vote you out next time you're up for election. Are lives are not a joke and neither is yours. How does it feel to be part of a strong, united youth movement that stretches around the world? It feels amazing to know that the work I'm doing here is happening across the world! It feels like one big family. What's been the most positive moment in your activism so far? The most positive moments are meeting kids younger than me who are being inspired to take action too. PHOTOGRAPHY NANCY MUSINGUZI.

Jamie Margolin climate strike protester
Photography Jesse Gouveia

Jamie Margolin, 17, Seattle, US

“I am striking for my beautiful Pacific Northwest home, the salmon, the trees, the orcas, the water, the mountains. I am striking to protect my family’s home country of Colombia, which is being destroyed.”

Tell us about your environmental activism and the organisation Zero Hour… I co-founded Zero Hour in the summer of 2017 along with several other amazing youth of colour in the United States. Zero Hour is a movement that centres the voices of diverse youth in the conversation around climate and environmental justice. We are a youth-led movement creating entry points, training and resources for new young activists and organisers (and adults who support our vision) wanting to take concrete action around climate change. We organise mobilisations, events and campaigns that work to change the national narrative on climate change and make the world and leaders listen to youth on this issue. We’re called Zero Hour because #ThisIsZeroHour to act on climate change. We are not a happy-go-lucky group of kids holding up signs, we are youth that mean business and are sounding the emergency alarm on the climate crisis. Why is climate justice so important? Without climate justice you cannot solve the climate crisis. You have to get to the root of the issue, which is the systems of oppression that led us to this point of planetary destruction in the first place: colonialism, patriarchy, racism and capitalism. Do you think we need more education about it — should it be taught in schools? YES. There needs to be way more education on climate change, its effects, its solutions, and the social and human rights issues it intersects with. Comprehensive, intersectional climate justice education is nowhere to be found in our school system. And the scientific explanation of the greenhouse gas effect is not enough. Zero Hour has launched an intersectional climate justice campaign called #GetToTheRoots where we are training students on the systems of oppression that caused the climate crisis in the first place (capitalism, colonialism, patriarchy, and racism). Once they are trained on the root causes and solutions to the climate crisis, they will present the powerpoint to their schools and communities. If you would like to be an ambassador you can signup here. How does it feel, being part of a strong, united youth movement that stretches around the world? It feels amazing. I used to feel really alone. Though no one was ever alone in this venture of protecting our world; indigenous peoples have always been defending the Earth. There are so many movements, organisations, community efforts and activists that the media has never covered, but who have changed the face of this Earth for the better. I’ve never been alone in our struggle, but back in 2017 when we started the #ThisIsZeroHour movement, it sure felt like it. This was long before Greta Thunberg did her first strike. Long before the Green New Deal took off in the USA. I was a scared 15-year-old trying to do my part to stop the climate crisis. We had no money, no notoriety, and yet the movement we young women of colour started was the first domino that led to the mainstreaming of high school climate justice activism. PHOTOGRAPHY JESSE GOUVEIA

Jonas Sack climate strike activist
Photography Britta Burger

Jonas Sack, 16, Berlin, Germany

Tell us about your environmental activism, how did you get involved with striking? In October last year I heard of Greta Thunberg after she spoke at COP24. A few months later, a friend of mine told me about something called “Fridays for Future”. On December 21st I went on strike in Potsdam for the first time. I was so motivated after the strike that I got more and more involved in organising the strikes in Berlin. Why is climate change the most important issue we face? Climate change affects all of us, but nobody feels responsible for it. Climate change is a crisis. Of course there has been climate change since the world came into existence, but human-caused climate change is happening so fast that no living form on earth is able to adapt to the new conditions. When and how did you learn about climate change and its impact? About three years ago I started questioning global contexts, my own decisions as a consumer and such things. I watched many documentaries, movies and news relating to environmental problems. I did all this on my own initiative, at school we didn’t talk about these topics. The more I learned, the more I changed my own lifestyle and the more I tried to get involved and the more I informed my friends and family, which actually worked well. How does it feel, being part of a strong, united youth movement that stretches around the world? Being a part of all this feels amazing! I mean for real, it feels like the time has come for us to rise up and to give ourselves a voice -- our voice. We are a grassroots movement started in December 2018, connected over WhatsApp, and we are literally working in chaos. When Greta Thunberg started striking from school she never thought that the movement would grow so fast. We are making history by rising up for our future right now. Greta is like the spark that ignited the fire. I feel so grateful and seeing all those young people demonstrating every Friday gives me energy and hope that we will archive a bright future. PHOTOGRAPHY BRITTA BURGER.

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Photography Stig De Block

Youna Marette, 17, Brussels, Belgium

Why are you striking for the climate? I’m striking because I fear for my future and the future of the world as we know it. I got involved in the striking organisation at the very beginning of the movement. Some friends and I felt we absolutely had to be part of this and we really wanted to mobilise a maximum number of people. What are your biggest concerns about climate change? If we do nothing about it, or do not do it fast or radically enough, then we will no longer be able to live on Earth. How does it feel, being part of a strong, united youth movement that stretches around the world? It feels great to know that I’m part of something big, that it no longer concerns just me, but youth from all around the world. It’s a relief. I want to say to the politicians that it is impossible to keep focusing on permanent growth as if nothing is wrong. They are stealing what doesn’t belong to them, our common future, and they’re missing a unique opportunity to enter the battle and make history. We’ll keep striking as long as the Earth needs it, as long as my future and that of the next generation is in doubt. PHOTOGRAPHY STIG DE BLOC.

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Photography Andrés Navarro

Camila Gonzalez, 15, Mexico City, Mexico

“We will not be kept silent so that companies can make money without thinking about their impact on our environment.”

What are your biggest concerns about climate change? Every day we live with the effects of the climate crisis, sometimes we barely notice them, while other times it’s very clear that we are living in an extremely damaged ecosystem. Some people are more affected by the climate crisis than others, and this is and will be the trigger for many international conflicts. I’m afraid that as a society we will not be able to deal with our problems peacefully. How is climate change affecting Mexico currently? Temperatures have been extremely high, in the city it’s been going as high as 30°C recently, which is quite unusual for this time of the year. The pollution problem is terrible, sometimes the air quality is so bad we can’t play outside during school breaks. Your generation and those that come after will be most affected by climate change. What do you want to say to those in power, who should be protecting our future but are failing to do so? I want the governments, the adults and authorities to stop ignoring us. It is unacceptable that we have to take responsibility for the actions of previous generations that did nothing to protect our planet. Now we want to tell you that we are enraged, we are furious. We will not be kept silent so that companies can make loads of money without thinking about their impact on our environment, so that people like me are forced to live through the consequences of what they are doing to our natural resources. We will not give up, we will keep striking because this is a cause worth fighting for, and if we give up then we’ll have to live with the blame that we had the opportunity to make a change but did nothing. PHOTOGRAPHY ANDRÉS NAVARRO.

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Photography Ashish Shah

Kayoz Dadyburjor, 16, Mumbai, India

“We need governments to take action right now because we get one Earth and that’s it.”

Why are you striking for the climate? Climate change is no longer a potential threat, it is happening right now and we are doing absolutely nothing to stop it. I’m striking for the climate because I cannot sleep knowing that I will get asked by children in the future what I did about it. I want to be able to show them that I did everything in my power and went out of my way for them. I started out doing it for future generations but now studies show that I will be affected too. What’s the strike movement like in India? There is definitely more awareness about climate change than ever amongst us teens, but it’s not enough because saving the planet is somehow thought to be uncool or unpopular. At least when it comes to the youngsters they have a basic idea of what pollution is because almost every city and village experiences air and water pollution in India. The movement is growing but most people in general aren’t interested in striking or activism. What’s been the most positive moment in your activism so far? I always go home happy after I find someone I never thought would take interest and ask questions. The best feeling at strikes is people taking me seriously. It is also an amazing feeling when your friends join the strikes to support you. PHOTOGRAPHY ASHISH SHAH.

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Photography Andile Buka

Yola Mgogowana, 11, Khayelitsha, South Africa

Why are you striking for the climate? I see the effects of climate change in my community — Khayelitsha, one of the impoverished townships of Cape Town — every single day. Cape Town has recently experienced one of the most hectic droughts ever. We need to change our ways and stand up for nature because our government wants to profit from it instead of protecting it. Tell us about your environmental activism. This year I volunteered with Earthchild Project Eco Warriors. There we learn about environmental issues affecting our school, community and the entire world. Our mission is to put environmental policies in our school code of conduct and also take action by creating solutions for local issues. When Fridays For Future Africa approached our club to get involved, it was an immediate yes! I knew I needed to represent the voices of black youth from under-resourced communities in Cape Town. I was happy when I got chosen as one of the main speakers at an event. My speech was the collective voice of youth who don’t have resources to be heard. Why do you think the youth strike movement is making an impact? Because it’s a collective of young people of different races, different backgrounds and classes, coming together for a good cause and saying we are sick of waiting for the adults. We are the future and we have a voice and power to change things. It starts with us. PHOTOGRAPHY ANDILE BUKA.

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Photography Ellius Grace

Saoi O’Connor, 16, Cork, Ireland

How did you get involved with striking? I saw the climate strikes happening elsewhere in the world and I thought “That’s awesome. We could do that.” There wasn’t one happening in my city so I just started one. What have you learned from taking part in the strikes? I’ve realised the extent to which a lot of people are still genuinely in denial about the climate crisis. People have come up to us and told us that climate change isn’t real, that we’re being manipulated or that we’re part of some international conspiracy. I’ve been called a “leftist pawn” or some variation of that more often than I can count. How does climate change affect Ireland? Climate change affects Ireland in so many ways, we have more extreme weather, more frequent storms. My town has experienced flooding pretty much every year for the past decade. Last year we had a hurricane here in Ireland -- when I was younger I was taught that that wasn’t possible, that it never happened, but it happened. My family had no electricity for a week. What does climate justice mean? It means factoring equity both into our transition to a carbon neutral world and into building the new infrastructures that come with it. Climate justice means that countries with larger emission rates must reduce their emissions drastically in the next few years in order to allow developing countries (whose emissions are much smaller) to develop some of the infrastructure we already have. Climate justice means that the voices of a small number of people who are only interested in making obscene amounts of money will no longer carry more weight in our global decision-making structures than the voices of the many people who will lose everything due to the changing climate. Climate justice means dismantling the corrupt structures and political ideals that got us into this mess in the first place. PHOTOGRAPHY ELLIUS GRACE.

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Photography Esther Ruth Mbabazi

Nakabuye Hilda Flavia, 20, Kampala, Uganda

How did you get involved with striking? Growing up in Uganda, an agricultural country, I’ve seen the dangers we have faced so far. As a green campaigner, striking is another way we can campaign for a safer environment. Do you think we need more education about it — should it be taught in all schools? Yes we do, that’s one of the requests we’re making to our President and those in charge of the school syllabus — to be more centred around skills and sustainable solutions towards a changing climate. What’s the strike movement like in Uganda? It is growing, we have a network of universities, primary and high school climate strikers now. Though we have a challenge because the authorities do not allow access to strike points like the parliament. What do you want to say to those in power, who should be protecting our future but are failing to do so? We are the first generation to know what we are doing and the last one who will be able to save the environment. The IPCC reports all indicate that there is no time, that we need to act now. Our inactive leaders are killing our future, our earth is dying. We are the future and we demand climate action now. PHOTOGRAPHY ESTHER RUTH MBABAZI.

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Photography Claudia Smith

Jean Hinchliffe, 15, Sydney, Australia

Why is climate change the most important issue we face? It is the root cause of such a large volume of the problems we face today. From bee colonies dying and sea levels rising, to future food insecurity and the further worsening of natural disasters, each and every person will be impacted in some way. It is one of the few issues we face which has a clear and totally irreversible deadline, which only makes it a more pressing issue, one that we must deal with immediately. How does climate change affect Australia currently? We can definitely already feel the impacts of climate change in Australia. Our summers are continuing to reach higher and higher average temperatures, and drought is still plaguing many parts of the country. Aboriginal people are definitely at the front of the climate crisis here, and their communities have been more impacted than any others. What’s next in your activism — will you keep striking? Whilst I will keep striking, I believe that we need to approach activism in a multifaceted way. Right now, Australian strikers are planning an MP action day on 3 May, which will consist of dozens of small events at heaps of politicians offices in the lead up to the election. We are exploring a lot of different forms of action right now, although the core of it will always remain with the same spirit of forgetting the rules that is core to the whole movement. What’s the strike movement like in Australia? The strike movement here is growing at what seems like an exponential rate right now. Our first strike was in November of last year, in which a remarkable 15,000 students walked out of school to attend rallies across the country, directly ignoring our Prime Minister’s orders for us to be ‘less activist’. Our most recent strike was on March 15th, where our numbers increased tenfold to 150,000. Every day we have more and more kids reach out to us to help out, I’m so excited to see where we go in the future. PHOTOGRAPHY CLAUDIA SMITH.

This article originally appeared on i-D UK.