This post originally appeared for Organic Spa Magazine in September 2019.
On Monday, Sept. 23, 2019, leaders from nearly 200 countries attended an emergency climate summit held by the United Nations to address dangerous temperature increases around the globe. At the summit, Greta Thunburg, a 15-year-old environmental activist from Sweden (who memorably arrived at the climate summit via carbon-neutral boat) told world leaders, “The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say we will never forgive you.”
Worldwide, youth activists like Thunburg are rising up to defend the planet from climate damage inflicted by generations before them -- and nothing better exemplifies their efforts than the Global Climate Strike held from Sept. 20 - 27, 2019. The Global Climate Strike arrives on the heels of the #FridaysforFuture movement started by these young environmentalists, in which students walk out of their classrooms on Fridays to protest climate change. Adults and children alike then banded together to form the Global Climate Strike, standing in solidarity at events in over 150 countries.
Activists launched the Global Climate Strike three days prior to the UN emergency climate summit, and will continue their protests through Friday, Sept. 27, 2019, when they will join their sister movement Earth Strike. On Sept. 27, Earth Strike will unite organizers worldwide to make international demands for greater accountability on climate change issues, such as following the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recommendations to halve carbon net emissions by 2030 and achieve zero net emissions by 2050.
The Sept. 27 Earth Strike pointedly falls on the anniversary of the book Silent Spring’s publication -- known by many as the book that started the environmentalist movement. For years, everyone from politician Al Gore to actor Leonardo di Caprio has been calling for changes to address the climate crisis. However, scientists recently pinpointed a threshold temperature increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius, at which climate change will become irreversible. Given that the globe has already warmed by 1 degree Celsius, researchers and climate activists alike say we have until the year 2030 to reverse the damage inflicted on our planet.
It’s no wonder, then, that climate activists’ calls-to-action have become more urgent. Climate change is a ticking time bomb -- and once it detonates, everyone will suffer. Just one degree of climate change has led to a 600% increase in median burned area of some forests, destroying animal habitats. Rising sea levels are expected to put 10 million more people worldwide at risk of flooding, forcing millions to become climate refugees. And dangerous heat waves kill thousands: a European heatwave back in 2003, for example, killed 70,000 people.
With so much at stake, and so much already lost, many of us wonder: what can still be done to address the global effects of climate change? According to Earth Strike, global average temperature is influenced by three key factors: insolation (the amount of solar radiation to the atmosphere), particulates (particles from natural sources -- i.e. volcanoes -- that block solar radiation) and greenhouse gases (emissions trapping solar radiation in our atmosphere).
Because insolation remains constant over time, and particulates depend on unpredictable events (such as volcanic eruptions), the most important thing we can do to reverse climate change is address greenhouse gas emissions.
Thankfully, at Monday’s climate summit, 77 countries committed to net zero emissions by 2050, while 70 countries announced they would boost their national action plans by 2020 -- but there is still much to be done to combat the effects of climate change worldwide.
Those of us watching this political action unfold from home may worry there is little we can do to prevent climate change. That’s why activists have made it easy for everyone to get involved in the Global Climate Strike this week -- here’s how.
Find a Global Climate Strike near you, using Global Climate Strike’s Climate Strike Map. Or, alternatively, organize a workplace or community event of your own -- a march, rally or solidarity action photo -- using Global Climate Strike’s digital guide.
The Climate Resistance Handbook is a tool for current and aspiring climate activists to use to plan their own protests, written by climate activist Daniel Hunter (and featuring a forward by Greta Thunburg herself). Click here to read the free PDF version.
Participate in the digital Climate Strike. For those who cannot be physically present at an event, Global Climate Strike encourages bloggers and website owners to run a free banner ad on their website advertising their participation in and support for the environmentalist movement.
Or, simply spread the word on social media! 140 characters goes a long way toward encouraging others to get involved. Share a selfie with the hashtag #ClimateStrike, or visit Global Climate Strike’s website for access to their free promotional graphics.
Last but not least, vote with your wallet by donating to political candidates and organizations who support taking action against climate change. Donate to green movements like Green Spa Network’s Tree Planting Initiative, and check out Grist’s interactive guide to find a 2020 candidate who shares your stance on climate change. Oh, and don’t forget to vote on Election Day this November!