- 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)
Leaked Documents and Photos Give Unprecedented Glimpse Inside Xinjiang’s Detention Camps
The so-called vocational schools, which China claims Uyghurs enter willingly as students, oversee their detainees with watchtowers armed with machine guns and sniper rifles, as well as guards instructed to shoot to kill anyone trying to escape.
Detained for Growing a Beard
The BBC and a consortium of investigative journalists have authenticated and published a massive trove of leaked documents and photographs exposing the Chinese government’s persecution of Uyghur Muslims in unprecedented detail.
According to the outlet, an anonymous source hacked several police computer servers in the northwestern Xinjiang province, then sent what has been dubbed the Xinjiang police files to the scholar Dr. Adrian Zenz, who gave them to reporters.
Among the files are more than 5,000 police photographs of Uyghurs taken between January and July 2018, with accompanying data indicating at least 2,884 of them were detained.
Some of the photos show guards standing nearby with batons.
The youngest Uyghur photographed was 15 at the time of their detention, and the oldest was 73.
One document is a list titled “Relatives of the Detained,” which contains thousands of people placed under suspicion for guilt by association with certain family members. It includes a woman whose son authorities claimed had “strong religious leanings” because he didn’t smoke or drink alcohol. He was jailed for ten years on terrorism charges.
The files also include 452 spreadsheets with information on more than a quarter of a million Uyghurs, some of whom were detained retroactively for offenses committed years or even decades ago.
One man was jailed for ten years in 2017 because he “studied Islamic scripture with his grandmother” for a few days in 2010.
Authorities targeted hundreds more for their mobile phone use, like listening to “illegal lectures” or downloading encrypted apps. Others were punished for not using their phones enough, with “phone has run out of credit” listed as evidence they were trying to evade digital surveillance.
One man’s offense was “growing a beard under the influence of religious extremism.”
The Most Militarized Schools in the World
The files include documents outlining conditions inside Xinjiang’s detention camps, or so-called “Vocational Skills Education and Training Centers.”
Armed guards occupy every part of the facilities, with machine guns and sniper rifles stationed on watchtowers. Police protocols instruct guards to shoot to kill any so-called “students” trying to escape if they fail to stop after a warning shot.
Any apprehended escapees are to be taken away for interrogation while camp management focuses on “stabilizing other students’ thoughts and emotions.”
The BBC used the documents to reconstruct one of the camps, which data shows holds over 3,700 detainees guarded by 366 police officers who oversee them during lessons.
If a “student” must be transferred to another facility, the protocols say, police should blindfold them, handcuff them and shackle their feet.
Dr. Zenz published a peer-reviewed paper on the Xinjiang police files, in which he found that more than 12% of Uyghur adults were detained over 2017 and 2018.
“Scholars have argued that political paranoia is a common feature of atrocity crimes,” he wrote. “Here, it is suggested that the pre-emptive internment of large numbers of ordinary citizens can be explained as a devolution into political paranoia that promotes exaggerated threat perceptions.”
See what others are saying: (BBC) (Newsweek) (The Guardian)
Biden Vows to Defend Taiwan if Attacked by China
Some praised the remarks for clarifying U.S. foreign policy, while others feared they could escalate tensions with China.
Biden’s Remarks Create Confusion
During a Monday press conference in Tokyo, U.S. President Joe Biden said the United States would intervene to defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack.
The remark caught many off guard because it contradicted decades of traditional U.S. foreign policy toward China.
A reporter said, “You didn’t want to get involved in the Ukraine conflict militarily for obvious reasons. Are you willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if it comes to that?”
“Yes,” Biden answered. “That’s a commitment we made. We are not — look, here’s the situation. We agree with a One China policy. We signed onto it and all the attendant agreements made from there.”
“But the idea that it can be taken by force — just taken by force — is just not appropriate,” he continued. “It will dislocate the entire region and be another action similar to what happened in Ukraine.”
Beijing considers the Taiwanese island to be a breakaway province, but Taiwan, officially the Republic of China, has claimed to represent the real historical lineage of China.
Since 1972, the U.S. has officially recognized only one China, with its capital in Beijing. However, Washington maintains extensive informal diplomatic ties with Taipei and provides military assistance through weapons and training.
Successive U.S. presidents have also committed to a policy of “strategic ambiguity,” refusing to promise or rule out a direct military intervention in case China attacks Taiwan.
The strategy is meant to deter China while avoiding a hard commitment to any action.
Biden Sparks Controversy
The White House quickly sent a statement to reporters appearing to walk back Biden’s remark.
“As the president said, our policy has not changed,” the statement said. “He reiterated our One China Policy and our commitment to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. He also reiterated our commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act to provide Taiwan with the military means to defend itself.”
Monday was not the first time Biden made similar remarks regarding China and Taiwan.
Last August, he promised that “we would respond” if there was an attack against a fellow member of NATO and then added, “same with Japan, same with South Korea, same with Taiwan.”
In October, he again told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that the U.S. would defend Taiwan from a Chinese attack, prompting the White House to hurriedly walk back his statement.
Monday’s remark was received with support as well as criticism.
“Strategic ambiguity is over. Strategic clarity is here,” Tweeted Matthew Kroenig, professor of government at Georgetown University. “This is the third time Biden has said this. Good. China should welcome this. Washington is helping Beijing to not miscalculate.”
“It is truly dangerous for the president to keep misstating U.S. policy toward Taiwan,” historian Stephen Wertheim wrote in a tweet. “How many more times will this happen?”
“The West’s robust response to Russian aggression in Ukraine could serve to deter China from invading Taiwan, but Biden’s statement risks undoing the potential benefit and instead helping to bring about a Taiwan conflict,” he added. “Self-injurious and entirely unforced.”
Biden also unveiled the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF), a trade agreement signed by the U.S. and 12 Asian nations.
The agreement appeared to many like another move to cut off China from regional trade pacts and supply chains in Washington’s strategic competition with Beijing.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (The New York Times) (The South China Morning Post)
Russia Takes Over 900 Azovstal Fighters Prisoner as Mariupol Surrenders
Ukraine said the soldiers successfully completed their mission, but the fall of Mariupol represents a strategic win for Putin.
Azovstal Waves the White Flag
Russia’s foreign ministry announced on Wednesday that it had captured 959 Ukrainians from the Azovstal steelworks, where besieged soldiers have maintained the last pocket of resistance in Mariupol for weeks.
A ministry spokesperson said in a statement that 51 were being treated for injuries, and the rest were sent to a former prison colony in the town of Olenivka in a Russian-controlled area of Donetsk.
The defense ministry released videos of what it claimed were Ukrainian fighters receiving care at a hospital in the Russian-controlled town of Novoazovsk. In one, a soldier tells the camera he is being treated “normally” and that he is not being psychologically pressured, though it is unclear whether he is speaking freely.
It was unclear if any Ukrainians remained in Azovstal, but Denis Pushilin, the head of the self-proclaimed republic of Donetsk, said in a statement Wednesday that the “commanders of the highest level” were still hiding in the plant.
Previously, estimates put the number of soldiers inside Azovstal around 1,000.
Ukraine officially gave up Mariupol on Monday, when the first Azovstal fighters began surrendering.
Reuters filmed dozens of wounded Ukrainians being driven away in buses marked with the Russian pro-war “Z” symbol.
Ukraine’s deputy defense minister said in a Tuesday statement that the Ukrainian prisoners would be swapped in an exchange for captured Russians. But numerous Russian officials have signaled that the Ukrainian soldiers should be tried.
Mariupol Falls into Russian Hands
After nearly three months of bombardment that left Mariupol in ruins, Russia’s combat mission in the city has ended.
The sprawling complex of underground tunnels, caverns, and bunkers beneath Azovstal provided a defensible position for the Ukrainians there, and they came to represent the country’s resolve in the face of Russian aggression for many spectators.
Earlier this month, women, children, and the elderly were evacuated from the plant.
The definitive capture of Mariupol, a strategic port city, is a loss for Ukraine and a boon for Russia, which can now establish a land bridge between Crimea and parts of Eastern Ukraine controlled by Russian separatists. The development could also free up Russian troops around Mariupol to advance on the East, while additional reinforcements near Kharkiv descend from the north, potentially cutting off Ukrainian forces from the rest of the country.
The Ukrainian military has framed events in Mariupol as at least a partial success, arguing that the defenders of Azovstal completed their mission by tying down Russian troops and resources in the city and giving Ukrainians elsewhere more breathing room.
It claimed that doing so prevented Russia from rapidly capturing the city of Zaporizhzhia further to the west.