It’s Friday, so you know what that means: The teens are striking from school and hitting the streets. This time, however, the stakes feel a little bit higher as world leaders gather in Madrid, for an international climate conference where they’re supposed to be strengthening the Paris Agreement. And youth from around the globe are staying on message about the system-wide overhaul needed to save the planet from, well, ourselves.
Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg arrived in Madrid on Friday to join an estimated 500,000 climate strikers in the streets there. First, however, you know she had to speak truth to power during an official event at climate talks known as COP25. And the truth?
“Of course we have achieved a lot, but if you look at it from a certain point of view, we have achieved nothing,” she said during the press event.
The three other Fridays for Future teen activists who shared the stage with her—Vanessa Nakate of Uganda, Shari Crespi, and Alejandro Martínez, both of Spain—didn’t hold back either.
“I think they are being hypocrites,” said Nakate, speaking of the fossil fuel companies sponsoring the conference. “They’re pretending. They’re trying to clean up their mess by making us think that they’re helping us, so I don’t really trust in their sponsorship in the COP25.”
Nakate went on to say the companies shouldn’t just give millions to sponsor such conferences. They should clean up the mess they created. Otherwise, what they’re doing means nothing. She noted that otherwise it’s all a show to “brainwash” the public into thinking what they’re doing is right when it clearly isn’t.
And really, these government discussions do feel like a show, one where leaders appear to take sufficient action on climate change when they are not. Plain and simple. Carbon emissions continue to rise. Wildfires continue to burn. People continue to die. And all world leaders have done is talk about their ideas without putting any sufficient ones into motion.
The responsibility to solve the climate crisis doesn’t sit on the shoulders of teenagers, and yet they are the loudest ones asking for change (or more accurately, demanding it). Unfortunately, there is only so much they can do. Many youth activists can’t even vote yet.
In the U.S., at least, climate strikers in Iowa found an ally to help elevate their message. Senator Bernie Sanders, a presidential candidate, joined their protest Friday, seemingly the only candidate to stand with youth during this pivotal day of action. He, too, is calling on systemic change—one that abandons fossil fuels and quickly moves to a renewable energy revolution.
“We can address this crisis if we have the courage to stand up to greedy and powerful special interests,” he said. “And today we tell the fossil fuel industry that their short-term profits are not more important than the future of our planet.”
That’s what’s at stake: the future. That’s why the youngest are taking a stand. They have no other choice. Until those in power listen, people will continue to suffer. Talking about climate change just isn’t enough anymore. We need action, transformation, and a goddamn revolution.