How and why you should join those taking to the streets this Friday
On 20 September 2019, the city of Glasgow joined over 7 million people in 150 countries in marching for climate justice. Thousands poured into the streets, and throughout the city cries of “WHAT DO WE WANT?” could be heard, the answering call of “CLIMATE JUSTICE” ricocheting off the sandstone bricks. This reply would have been clear as day even if it had remained unspoken – the young people wanted justice, and we were shouting and singing and shaking foundations in order to get it. The demand fizzled in the air in every corner of the earth, it transcended borders and nations as we marched together hand in hand across the world.
This Friday 24 September 2021 marks two years since that day. It has been two years in which, for the most part, we have not been able to be on the streets. Nonetheless, young people globally have continued to organize, connect, and build solidarity to fight for climate justice. Crucially, it has been two years in which, while the conversation around the climate crisis has shifted, very little has changed. In fact, one of the only things which has been as consistent, as resilient, and as adaptive as the global climate strike movement has been governments’ ability to ignore the demands of that movement entirely.
The UK and Scottish governments have been some of the worst offenders on this. Since the first climate strikes they have wheeled out every greenwashing trick in the book, from fig-leaf targets, to blustering speeches, to arguments against stopping this threat which begin with “but, the economy….”
Which is why, this Friday, two years to the day we shook the world with our voices and demanded justice with our feet, we will be marching again. With marches planned in thousands of cities in hundreds of countries, we will remind world leaders of the sweet promises they made to us the last time we made them sweat. In Glasgow, we will meet at Kelvingrove Park at 11am and march to George Square. The message of climate justice will be heard all over the world, but it is uniquely important for it to be heard in Glasgow which, in just over a month, will play host to the 26th annual UN Climate Negotiations (also known as the Conference of the Parties, or COP26).
This Friday’s global protest will also specifically focus on highlighting how the climate crisis intersects with other global systems of oppression. The climate crisis does not exist in a vacuum: it cannot be separated from colonialism, imperialism, and the exploitation of the global south, all of which contributed to its creation. This is why we say “climate justice” and not “climate action”. It would be totally possible for our leaders in the global north to take hollow, rudimentary “action” which does not address the root causes of the crisis, but that would not be justice. If the world we are fighting for replicates the systemic injustices which define the present world, then it is damned from the cradle. The climate fight cannot be removed from the fight for housing, for workers rights, for food justice, racial justice, for transgender rights, or from any of the struggles of marginalised people globally.
The fight for climate justice is a defining struggle of our times. The movement for climate justice has shown itself to be a force to be reckoned with; Glasgow is about to be the epicenter of both. COP26 is predicted to be the most important set of climate negotiations since the signing of the Paris Agreement. This November in Glasgow, an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. The city will be host not only to the negotiations themselves, but to all those who play roles in the political dances of vested interest which surround them: fossil fuel lobbyists, greedy politicians and so-called “world leaders”. In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to say that every person alive today who is responsible for the climate crisis we face will be meeting in Glasgow in November. It remains up to us to decide how we welcome them.
I, for one, have some ideas. No matter what we do, it starts this Friday, and it starts with you joining us. The tone we begin to set now sends a message to everyone coming to the COP. To the lobbyists booking their flights and the politicians re-fuelling their private jets, that the young people of Glasgow are ready for them, that we have solidarity with people fighting for climate justice, and experiencing the impacts of the climate crisis, all over the world. We are willing to move mountains.