As old men negotiated the future of the planet and its inhabitants inside the COP26 conference hall, young women, many of them from Indigenous communities, led the masses of protesters who braved the drookit and filled the Glaswegian streets demanding bolder action to confront the climate crisis that will dominate their lives long after the negotiators have died. “Now is the time. Yesterday was the time,” Dominique Palmer, 22, an activist with Fridays for Future International, said during a panel discussion Thursday. “We need action right now.”
While negotiators say they are sensitive to the pleas of the generation that will inherit the crisis the negotiators’ generation failed to address, “they’re lying to themselves,” 24-year-old Philippine activist Mitzi Jonelle Tan told the New York Times. If they were listening, “they would be prioritizing people over profit.” Women and girls, particularly in the Global South, are especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, which will prevent 4 million girls from attending school this year, according to a UNICEF report.
As “floods are ravaging” her native Uganda, “we are in a disaster that is happening every day,” Vanessa Nakate, 24, told protesters. African nations are responsible for just 3% of historic greenhouse gas pollution, yet those countries are “on the front lines of the crisis, but not on the front pages of the newspapers,” she said. “How will we have climate justice if people from the most affected areas are not being listened to?”
The protesters were joined by local trade unionists including Glasgow sanitation workers who joined because the youth had turned out to support them. “Climate justice and social justice go hand in hand,” Chris Mitchell, the branch convenor for Scotland’s GMB union refuse workers, said. Ewen Corke, 8, of Fife, brought a message closer to home: “Sorry I can’t tidy my bedroom, I am too busy saving the planet,” his t-shirt read. (New York Times $, Washington Post $, Bloomberg $, AP; UNICEF education report: E&E $; Union solidarity: Gizmodo, Messy room: Washington Post $)