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Nafsika Polemis: Reflection on Greek Climate Strike 2019

To all of you who choose to look the other way every day because you seem more frightened of the changes that can prevent catastrophic climate change than the catastrophic climate change itself. Your silence is worst of all.” - Greta Thunberg


Where have our voices gone?

Four years ago, on September 27th, 2019, I participated in the global climate school strike inspired by the renowned climate activist Greta Thunberg. Speaking on behalf of Athens, Greece, and the members of the protest our voices were unified as we chanted “Change the planet!” Being only 14 years old at the time I was amazed at how strangers were able to come together to support each other as we found something that we all had in common and that we always will have in common, our home. Joined by 6 million others around the world, we were able to bring about one of the largest climate strikes in world history!


An event like this doesn’t go unnoticed. A splash was definitely made as we protested against the ineffectual actions of world leaders and ignited not only a spark but a flame in the growth of the climate movement, capturing the attention of policymakers and the media. Unfortunately, it has been four years; four years since we have had an environmental strike in Greece. Four years and the world has grown too complacent as we have gone too quiet.


My personal photos from the Athens climate strike in Syntagma Square


What has Greece suffered recently?

In the first few months of last year, 2022, Greece endured 34 wildfires - a serious increase compared to the standard 4 fires that we were accustomed to; the fires burned over 10 square km compared to the usual 0.375 square km.


Specifically, over the summer, Greece suffered many fires, of which the largest and most recent occurred on July 19th on Mount Penteli in the Northern suburbs of Athens. Smaller fires then continued to burn throughout nearby areas, destroying multiple houses, hospitalizing 34 individuals and also necessitating the evacuation of nine neighborhoods.


A global perspective of climate change

Central Europe faced three heat waves during the summer of 2022 with the United Kingdom experiencing the highest temperatures ever recorded (40.3°C / 104.54°F). As a result of the heat there were a total of 1,500 deaths and 10 billion euros lost.


The same year, Pakistan endured extreme monsoon rains and inordinate heat in the Karakoram Mountains which caused an unparalleled glacial melt, leading to floods on the 14th of June. The floodwaters from the Indus floodplains took months to recede; the floods displaced 8 million people and led to a loss of 40 billion dollars and the death of 1,717 individuals.


From June 25th to July 1st of 2021 a severe heat wave hit Canada and the United States, specifically the Pacific Northwest, which resulted in numerous wildfires. $8.9 million USD was lost along with 1,400 lives.


What can be done?

Student activism has played a major role in igniting change in Greece, dating back to the 1960s. Why can’t student protests rally again to combine pro-democracy and pro-climate action activities?


The protesting students of the prominent “Fridays for Future” 2019 climate strike vowed to continue boycotting classes on Fridays, following in Thunberg’s footsteps, until their countries complied with the 2015 Paris Agreement, that aimed to cap global average temperature rise at 1.5°C/ 2.7°F. However, this goal seems less and less reachable with each fire we endure.


Let's unite as students once more; join voices and echo Greta Thunberg’s cry for action!


What can you do?



Bibliography

“Act Now.” Cool Earth, www.coolearth.org/act-now/.

“Fridays for Future – What Does It Take to Go on a Strike?” Fridaysforfuture.org, fridaysforfuture.org/take-action/how-to-strike/.


Friedman, Alexi. “Greece Wildfires in 2022: The Sad Story so Far.” GreekReporter.com, 20 July 2022, greekreporter.com/2022/07/20/greece-wildfires-2022/.


Lewis, Aimee. “Greta Thunberg to Congress: Listen to the Scientists.” CNN, 21 Sept. 2019, edition.cnn.com/2019/09/20/world/global-climate-strike-september-intl/index.html.


Maanvi Singh, et al. “Global Climate Strike: Greta Thunberg and School Students Lead Climate Crisis Protest – as It Happened.” The Guardian, The Guardian, 21 Sept. 2019, www.theguardian.com/environment/live/2019/sep/20/climate-strike-global-change-protest-sydney-melbourne-london-new-york-nyc-school-student-protest-greta-thunberg-rally-live-news-latest-updates.



Psacharopoulos, George, and Andreas M. Kazamias. “Student Activism in Greece: A Historical and Empirical Analysis.” Higher Education, vol. 9, no. 2, 1980, pp. 127–138, www.jstor.org/stable/3446348.


Reuters. “Factbox: COP27: Counting the Rising Cost of Climate Disasters.” Reuters, 21 Nov. 2022, www.reuters.com/business/cop/cop27-counting-rising-cost-climate-disasters-2022-11-16/.


“School Strike for Climate: Protests Staged around the World.” BBC News, 24 May 2019, www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-48392551.


Stubbs, Phil. “Greta Thunberg Quotes.” The Environment Show, 7 Apr. 2020, www.environmentshow.com/greta-thunberg-quotes/#:~:text=%E2%80%9CTo%20all%20of%20you%20who.


“Take Action | Greenpeace UK.” Greenpeace UK, 2019, www.greenpeace.org.uk/take-action/.


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