- An estimated 1.5 million students in more than 120 countries came out to protest the lack of action politicians have taken to mitigate climate change.
- The movement, known as Friday For Future, was started by a 16-year-old Swedish girl named Greta Thunberg.
- The protests were almost entirely student-led, and mark one of the biggest environmental demonstrations ever.
Kids Climate Strike
Students all over the world skipped school on Friday to protest for stronger climate change policies during a kids “climate strike.”
The strike is already being described as one of the largest environmental demonstrations ever. More than 2,000 protests were held in over 120 countries, with general estimates saying that nearly 1.5 million people came out to protest worldwide.
The highly organized protests were lead almost entirely by teenagers who believe politicians need to do more to address climate change at an international level.
Several of the young leaders of the protest published an article in The Guardian about their movement and why they are striking. In the article, they kep repeating the line: “This movement had to happen, we didn’t have a choice.”
The leaders cite a report published by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) back in October. The report argued that the planet would warm by over 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) without coordinated international policies to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
It also stated that the impacts of that temperature increase could be much more devastating than previous studies had shown.
Most significantly, the IPCC report said that the international community needed to curb emissions by 2030, or risk runaway warming.
The students who came out to protest have already seen these impacts in their homes and all over the world.
One of the main themes of the protest was the fact that the students feel like their future is in the hands of adults who are not doing enough to stop climate change.
In the article, the leaders write: “If those in power today don’t act, it will be our generation who will live through their failure.”
The fact that they chose to do this on a school day rather than a weekend is also important because the students believe that skipping school to strike proves a powerful point.
According to the website for the strike:
“School children are required to attend school. But with the worsening Climate Destruction this goal of going to school begins to be pointless. Why study for a future, which may not be there? Why spend a lot of effort to become educated, when our governments are not listening to the educated?”
The leaders also reiterated this point in their article, writing: “We think organising against an existential threat – and figuring out how to make our voices heard – is teaching us some important lessons.”
They continue later, “We strongly believe that we can fight off the most damaging effects of climate change – but we have to act now.”
Friday for Future
Given the sheer size of the demonstrations, many have wondered how a protest of this magnitude came about.
It all started back in August, when 15-year-old Greta Thunberg sat in front of the Swedish parliament to protest the lack of action being taken to address climate change. Thunberg sat in front of parliament every school day for three weeks.
She also posted what she was doing on Instagram and Twitter, and eventually, she started to go viral.
Then in September, Thunberg decided that she would continue striking every Friday until Sweden implements policies that would lower climate change by 2 degrees Celsius.
Thunberg continued to post pictures on social media using the hashtags #FridaysForFuture and #Climatestrike.
Those hashtags spread so much that many students began to protest outside of their parliaments and city halls all over the world, effectively starting the Fridays For Future movement.
According to the Fridays For Future website, it is: “A peoples movement following the call from @GretaThunberg to school strike.”
The website also provides materials on how to strike, links to social media accounts, and contact information for affiliated strikes all around the world.
Not only has Thunberg inspired a worldwide environmental movement, she has also found a place for herself.
In an interview with the New York Times, Thunberg said: “All my life I’ve been invisible, the invisible girl in the back who doesn’t say anything.”
She also discussed dealing with clinical depression as a child that was so severe she stopped eating, growing, and going to school. On her Twitter account, she writes in her bio that she has Aspbergers.
Thunberg told the Times that she was inspired to take action after learning about the effects of climate change in school, saying: “I became very affected. I began thinking about it all the time and I became very sad […] Those pictures were stuck in my head.”
Now, what started as a one-woman protest has become a global movement, and Thunberg has been championed as its leader.
However, her activism does not just begin and end with the student’s strikes.
In November, Thunberg gave a TED talk on climate action at TEDxStockholm
Back in December, she attended a United Nations climate conference, where she criticized negotiators and said: “You are not mature enough to tell it like it is […] Even that burden you leave to us children.”
In January, she attended the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where she told a group of wealthy elites they made “unimaginable amounts of money” at the expense of the planet’s future.
On Thursday, a group of Norwegian lawmakers nominated Thunberg for the Nobel Peace Prize.
In her own words, Thunberg told the Times: “I’m happier now […] I have meaning. I have something I have to do.”
Debate & Response
Thunberg’s movement seems highly organized, and it is clear it is gaining traction.
However, there are still some who believe it is pointless for students to skip school to protest.
In February, the office of British Prime Minister Theresa May said that the school strikes in Britain were a distraction that “wastes lesson time.”
Thunberg responded on Twitter, writing “political leaders have wasted 30 yrs of inaction. And that is slightly worse.”
Meanwhile, others like Leonardo DiCaprio, have expressed support for the movement, writing in a Tweet: “I stand in solidarity with those who participated in yesterday’s youth organized climate strike.”
See what others are saying: (The Guardian) (The New York Times) (National Geographic)
Police Arrest Hong Kong Man for Booing Chinese National Anthem
The man’s boos were launched during the first time the Chinese national anthem had ever been played for a Hong Kong athlete at the Olympics.
Instulting the Anthem
Hong Kong authorities announced Friday that a man was arrested for allegedly booing and “insulting” the Chinese national anthem while watching the Olympics on Monday.
The unnamed 40-year-old, who identified himself as a journalist, was allegedly watching the Olympics fencing medal ceremony for Hong Konger Edgar Cheung at a local mall. When the anthem began playing, he allegedly began booing and chanted “We are Hong Kong!” while waving a British Hong Kong Colonial flag.
The man’s actions were particularly noteworthy because it was the first time the Chinese national anthem had been played for a Hong Kong athlete in the Olympics. Hong Kongers compete at the Games under a separate committee called Hong Kong, China. The last time a Hong Konger won gold was in 1996 for windsurfing, at which time the British anthem of “God Save the Queen” was played.
Concerns for Freedom of Speech
The man is suspected of breaking the relatively new National Anthem Ordinance, which was passed in June 2020, and has a penalty of up to three years in prison and fines of $6,000 for anyone who publicly and intentionally insults the anthem. The law mirrors one in mainland China, but it has faced considerable scrutiny from increasingly persecuted pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong.
They argue that it tramples the right to free speech, which is supposed to be enshrined in the city’s Basic Law. Hong Kong police, however, say that’s not the case and claim that his actions breach common restraints on freedom of speech. Senior Superintendent Eileen Chung said that his actions were “to stir up the hostility of those on the scene and to politicize the sport.”
Police issued a warning that it would investigate reports of others joining his chants or violating the separate National Security law passed last year.
This incident isn’t the only case of alleged politicization of the Games. Badminton player Angus Ng was accused by a pro-Beijing lawmaker of making a statement by sporting a black jersey with the territory’s emblem. The imagery was very similar to the black-and-white Hong Kong flag used by anti-government protesters.
Ng countered that he wore his own clothes to the event because he didn’t have sponsorships to provide jerseys and he wasn’t authorized to print the emblem on a jersey himself.
See what others are saying: (Inside) (Al Jazeera) (CNN)
Canadian Catholic Priest Says Residential Schools Survivors Lied About Abuse
The Roman Catholic Church is facing considerable backlash across Canada for its treatment of indigenous peoples in the residential school system, along with its subsequent efforts to downplay the problem.
Priest Sparks Outrage
Father Rheal Forest was put on forced leave Wednesday following remarks he made over a weeks-long period starting July 10 in which he doubted victims of the country’s infamous residential school system.
Residential schools were a system of schools largely for indigenous children that were mostly run by the Catholic Church with federal government funding. The schools were notoriously cruel and long faced allegations that children had been abused or went missing under their care.
To date, over 1,300 unmarked graves have been found at four former residential schools across Canada, a fraction of the over 130 that used to exist.
Forest, of the St. Boniface archdiocese in Winnipeg, was standing in for a couple of weeks while the main priest at his church was away. During that time, Forest told parishioners that victims of the residential schools, particularly those sexually abused, had lied.
“If [the victims] wanted extra money, from the money that was given to them, they had to lie sometimes — lie that they were abused sexually and, oop, another $50,000,” he said.
“It’s kind of hard if you’re poor not to lie.”
In that same sermon, he also added that during his time with Inuit groups in the north of the country, most had allegedly said they appreciated the residential school system. Instead, he said they blamed any abuses on lay people working at the facilities rather than priests or nuns.
Forest’s comments drew a ton of backlash, prompting the archdiocese to place Forest on leave. A spokesperson for the archdiocese said that the institution “completely disavow” Forest’s comments, adding, “We very much regret the pain they may have caused to many people, not least of course Indigenous people and, more specifically, survivors of the Residential School system.”
Overall, the archdiocese has attempted to apologize to indigenous communities for its part in the residential school system, with Archbishop Albert Legatt saying in a video that the way forward was by “acknowledging, apologizing, and acting” on terms set by indigenous groups.
Church Allegedly Kept Money From Victims
Forest’s views and subsequent dismissal aren’t the only public relations scandal the Roman Catholic Church faces in Canada.
According to documents obtained by CBC News, the Church spent over a decade avoiding paying out money to survivors per a 2005 agreement. At the time, it, alongside the protestant churches that also ran some residential schools, agreed to pay an amount to victims of the schools in the tens of millions.
Instead, according to an internal summary of 2015 court documents, the Catholic Church spent much of that money on lawyers, administration, a private fundraising company, and unapproved loans. It seems that some of this was technically legal, such as a promise to give tens of millions back via “in-kind” services; however, there was no audit completed to confirm that these services actually happened or to prove the alleged value of the services. This led to doubts about whether or not they were done effectively.
The Catholic Church was unique among the signatory churches in the 2005 agreement with its efforts to avoid paying victims. All of the other denominations paid out their sums many years before without issues.
While priests such as Father Forest have supported the Church, there has been internal backlash. Father André Poilièvre, a Saskatoon priest and Order of Canada recipient, said the Church’s actions are “scandalous” and “really shameful,” adding, “It was a loophole. It might be legal, but it’s not ethical.”
With these latest revelations, widespread anger at the Church has triggered allegations that indigenous groups are behind a spree of church burnings across the country.
The entire situation is likely going to continue to smolder as a government commission set up to investigate the schools estimates there will be thousands of more unmarked graves found across Canada.
See what others are saying: (CBC News) (The Guardian) (CTV News)
Tokyo Sets Back-to-Back Records for Number of Daily COVID-19 Cases
Some positive cases were detected among people attending the Olympic Games, including a handful of athletes.
Cases Going Up
The Tokyo Olympic Games found itself in more controversy on Wednesday after Tokyo experienced a record number of daily COVID-19 cases for the second day in a row.
On Tuesday, the city recorded 2,848 new cases of the virus, passing the 2,500 daily new case threshold for the first time since the pandemic began. Then on Wednesday, it shattered the record again with 3,177 new COVID-19 cases.
At least 155 of those new cases were detected among people attending the Games, including a handful of athletes, which contrasts Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide’s promise that the Olympics wouldn’t be hit with the virus. The spike in new cases has largely been attributed to the delta-variant, something that many countries are dealing with around the world.
Nishimura Yasutoshi, a Japanese economic minister, told a parliamentary panel this week that COVID-19 cases are expected to continue rising for at least a few days. He also explained that many people may have delayed getting tested last week due to holidays, therefore inflating total daily new case numbers.
Governors in prefectures around Tokyo have moved to ask the government for states-of-emergency, which Tokyo is already under.
Doubts About Government Response
The prime minister said in a press conference on Tuesday that “the government has secured a new drug that reduces the risk of serious illness by 70 percent,” adding, “we have confirmed that this drug will be used thoroughly from now on.”
However, he never actually mentioned what drug he was referencing.
“In any case, under these circumstances, I would like to ask the people to avoid going out unnecessarily and to watch the Olympics and Paralympics on TV,” Suga continued.
He also stressed that canceling the Olympics amid the outbreak was completely out of the question, although there have been continued calls from the public and opposition lawmakers for just that.
Beyond refusing to cancel the Games, Suga is facing backlash for refusing to enact strict state-of-emergency protocols. Currently, the measures in Tokyo are almost all voluntary and consist of asking people to stay home, along with requesting restaurants that serve alcohol to completely close and telling all others to shut down by 8 p.m.