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Millions join worldwide protests to save planet

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The global climate strike saw some 5,800 actions across 161 countries—and shows the mood to fight back
Issue 2673
Protesting in Australia as part of the global climate strike on 20 September
Protesting in Australia as part of the global climate strike on 20 September (Pic:

A global call-to-arms saw people in at least 161 countries strike together on Friday 20 September.

Organisers reported 5,800 separate actions, and many cities saw the biggest demonstrations since the 2003 mobilisations against the Iraq war.

More countries were set to strike this week. New Zealand, Canada—where Greta Thunberg will join the strike—and Argentina all planned walkouts on Friday. 

Last week’s actions saw many ­protesters take to the streets, stage sit-ins and block traffic. 

In Australia, organisers said that over 300,000 people walked out in more than 110 towns and cities. 

Indigenous activists led many of the strikes because “they are and have always been at the forefront of the fight to protect land, water, air and country”.

In the Tasmanian capital Hobart, more than 10 percent of the city joined in. 


Around a million people took part in strikes and protests across Germany. In Dusseldorf, a huge effigy of Thunberg wearing a T-shirt ­reading, “Do something finally against the climate catastrophe”, was mounted on a float. In Berlin protesters blocked off a major bridge by stringing red and white tape across the street. 

Some 270,000 people gathered close to government buildings where Angela Merkel’s cabinet was trying to thrash out a deal on curbing greenhouse gases. 

In Seattle in the US, thousands of Amazon workers walked out and marched with Google workers.

Strike leaders in East Asia released a joint statement calling for “not only more ambitious climate action but also climate justice for our communities”.

“There’s no sugarcoating it—East Asia is one of the most ­vulnerable regions in the world to climate change impacts,” they said.

Activists from the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia called on their governments to declare a climate emergency. 

In the Philippines school ­strikers rallied outside the Commission on Human Rights. In Bangkok, Thailand’s capital, a die-in was held outside the environment ministry.

Eleven year old Aman Sharma took part in the New Delhi ­mobilisation in India. “We need to reclaim our right to clean air and water”, he said. 

In Kabul, Afghanistan, around 100 students took to the streets flanked by armed guards. Organiser Fardeen Barakzai said, “The problem is our leaders are fighting for power but the real power is in nature.”

In Nairobi, Kenya, strikers wore hats made from single use plastics. South Africa saw protests in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth and Durban.

Hundreds of students marched through Guatemala as their government announced plans to ban single use plastic. In France there were huge school strikes. And the next day, some climate change activists marched alongside Yellow Vests and workers fighting attacks on their pensions.

A major focus on protests across Brazil was saving the Amazon rainforest.

Student Fabiana said, “The first action to save the climate in Brazil is to tackle the interests of agribusiness.”

Hundreds of workplaces join day of climate action

The latest strike represents a turning point—not just in size, but because organised workers joined actions.

In hundreds of workplaces people held lunchtime demonstrations, meetings or organised open mic sessions.

The UCU union showed on its website that workers took action in at least 58 colleges and universities—there will have been more.

And council workers organised action at some workplaces.

In places, trade unionists negotiated with bosses so that workers could get unpaid leave or use flexi-time to attend rallies.

For most, it was the first time that people in their workplace had organised over the issue of climate change.

In Salford around 300 workers rallied outside the civic centre. Council worker Ameen said, “It’s a really good start but I think we can do better next time.

“When people see how big this is they’ll want to be part of it.”

Suzanne Jeffery, chair of the Campaign Against Climate Change Trade Union Group, said, “We have to build on today for the next round of climate strikes.

“Many trade unionists are asking why it’s legal to wreck the planet but illegal to strike to save it.”

In every workplace there should be reports about the day and discussions about how to build bigger actions next time.

Collective workers’ action will be key in fighting climate chaos.

Young people lead the struggle

The climate strike movement is driven by the anger and desperation of a generation of young people.

They believe they don’t have a future unless they force leaders into taking urgent action.

It’s the first movement of its kind—a globally coordinated effort organised by and led by teenagers. Some strikers are primary school age, while others are university students.

But the biggest contingents at strike rallies come from secondary schools.

Many students carry placards blasting the rich and the fossil fuel capitalist billionaires.

Speeches that criticised the capitalist system as a whole were often the best received during last weeks strikes.

Is a Green New Deal the way forward?

A key demand of many school strikers is for far-reaching reforms that can tackle the climate crisis under the banner of a Green New Deal (GND).

The GND calls for renewable energy investment, an end to fracking and net zero emissions by 2030. Some 128 Constituency Labour Parties voted to send a GND motion to the party’s conference this week—it was the fourth most popular issue.

Delegates were set to vote on two versions of a GND motion as Socialist Worker went to press.

One has the backing of the CWU, TSSA, FBU and Bfawu unions, and calls for a 2030 decarbonisation target.

The alternative motion was tabled by the GMB union, which doesn’t want to set a target for net zero carbon emissions.

Laura Townesend from Labour for a Green New Deal was “over the moon” that the issue is set to be debated.

“We have a huge opportunity to unite our movement behind workers and climate justice,” she said.

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