Opinion Article
January 19, 2021

Student Climate Strike — The Road For Change

It is generally agreed that the steps taken regarding technology, digitization, and communication have been occurring at a significant speed and with increasingly shorter release cycles and supremacy of a certain novelty. Think of music and what happened in the ’80s. Vinyl emerged in the late 40s, and four decades later, in 1984, the first music CD was released — Born in the USA by Bruce Springsteen. But it took only 15 years for something unique to take place in the market. I am referring to the peer-to-peer solutions (Napster being the most well-known) that came to democratize music, making it accessible to all, reaching its peak after two years with the iPod and the Apple Store. After seven years, streaming solutions such as YouTube, Sound Cloud, Spotify, among others. Music is even more accessible to all: offline, online, an entire album, only one track, music videos, anything can be shared. The alternatives are numerous, and we have been experiencing upgrades every day. Recently, blockchain technology started being used for music: making our music library available to friends via a token. Impressive!

And in terms of environmental issues,climate change (formerly known as global warming as the movie Vice portrayed),and the SDGs agenda? Did we think it possible that these issues would be transported quickly from the scientific community to our daily lives?

There was a succession of events,which led to a growing awareness of the population and their level of demand —the student strike in March is a clear example.

Skeptics of climate change, advocates of interests or beliefs, have faced increasing evidence that something is happening or will happen with higher intensity. Concerns over residues, which seemed to be confined to Europe only, are beginning to spread over other parts of the globe. These are some of the dimensions of the environmental challenges that force us to acknowledge, once and for all, that we cannot in any way continue to live as we have done so far — with indifference from companies(many of which had sustainability measures that served only to portray their“green” positioning) or the population (only a minority committed and were vocal about environmental issues). Problems or headaches were either far away or were sent away. That time is up!

What brought us here?

Although the EU has always been a relatively effective provenience center for policies and regulations — unlike the United States of America whose regulatory production is zigzaggy —multilaterally and only recently reached an efficiency and mobilization record regarding taking action, as illustrated by the Paris Summit for the Climate.

What about the companies? The moment of true awareness and first steps towards the change in mentality regarding these economic agents takes place when, in 2013, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation launches the first manifesto on the Circular Economy, which was in the same year when the European Commission Foundation adopted it. From then onwards,companies began to acknowledge what they had known for a long time: the need to preserve finite natural resources by taking advantage of the value associated with residue through recycling and reuse or exploiting various natural energy sources or even by reusing water.

In 2017, one of the most dramatic aspects of the environmental challenge reached the population with images of pollution in the oceans on all five continents. And then begins the real social pressure of consumers who are the actors that ultimately materialize their “protest,”acting through their purchasing decisions. Companies then started to take the issue of sustainability further — nowadays, if they don’t adopt it strategically, they will be doomed in the long run.

In January 2019, we witnessed 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg’s remarkable speech at the World Economic Forum in the wake of this growing awareness and outrage. Last March 15th, young people mobilized a Strike for Climate, an upheaval that is already genuinely international. Another strike is planned for May. Will it beshort-lived? I really believe that it won’t!

The Student Climate Strike

We know that young people have always been agents of great changes socially and politically, and I believe they will continue to be so. What happened on March 15th was indeed a global manifesto for a global problem: 1,2 million students in 123 countries went on a strike. A global movement decentralized which, to some extent, also called into question the traditional environmental organizations.

Society is being confronted with children, young people, who become adults as they become aware of a problem that peacefully manifests itself, urging adults to act. It is a protest against those who are deciding their future without them having a say. In an increasingly global world where information and knowledge are accessible to young people, they feel betrayed by the short-term view of policy-makers and most companies, which will cause everything to change in a way it has never changed before.

“My generation failed to respond adequately to the dramatic challenge of Climate change. Young people deeply feel this. No wonder they are angry.” António Guterres wrote in an opinion article in The Guardian.

Now what?

Will the fight against climate change,an increasingly visible menace in our daily lives, reinforced with this youth movement, lead countries to acknowledge the problem for the last time without denying it due to short-term economic or political interests? Will Australia start considering the topic instead of focusing solely on its coal industry?Will the United States continue to deny the successive extreme weather events claiming,for example, that the California fires took place due to poor forest management? Will Brazil continue to allow the deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest? Or will Asian countries insist on not controlling the rivers of plastic that are clear to everyone and pollute our oceans?

This inaction and the underlying reasoning which lacks credibility may even continue but not for long, given that the pressure for taking action will increase. I believe we will all deliver an appropriate response. We are called to act upon, and we are prepared to go through this new road of changing our habits for a cause that is global and transgenerational.

This content was originally written in Portuguese and published in Blog Executive Education Nova SBE.

Luís Veiga Martins

Luís Veiga Martins

Associate Dean for Community Engagement and Sustainable Impact at Nova SBE

12. Responsible consumption and production
13. Climate action
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