Mohamed Aididi and Fareha Rahman
This is an emergency. Time is running out and everything you know, everyone you love is at risk. Your friends, your family, the entire global family. Because we are a family, we are humankind: interconnected, culpable and with the power to affect change. Not just the power but also the responsibility. Without immediate and decisive action we face extinction. We know that some people find this difficult to grasp, or even believe, but really, this is our situation. It could not be clearer or more bleak. Climate breakdown and ecological collapse are a direct and impending threat to our civilisation. This is not an exaggeration. We are deadly serious, and we are determined that our generation will not accept the inaction of those who have our future in their hands.
We are already in the sixth mass extinction of life on Earth. Did you know that 200 species are lost to our planet every day? Lost forever. Just think of all those creatures you have lived alongside that we will never be able to lay our eyes on. Every month we are experiencing more and more extreme weather and this is wreaking havoc in countries everywhere. Floods, wildfires, droughts, and crop failures are ravaging communities that have never previously experienced anything like this before and are having their livelihoods and their lives terribly disrupted. Desperate conditions are leading to food shortages and this is causing social upheaval and conflict. The consequences are just so dire with hundreds of thousands of lives lost to climate breakdown every year.
There are so many issues – structural inequalities and injustices that mean those in power choose to ignore the seriousness of the threat of climate change because it is not in their interests to do so or because it limits their profits. But what young people like us are calling for is not just to change this or that, anything, but to change everything. We have to change this system based on industries and technologies, greed and naked exploitation, that are intrinsically destructive to the environment. We need to move forward in support of the most basic of universal values – the right to a future, the right to safeguard the planet we will inherit. We have to act because we have no choice. We do not have anywhere else to go. There is no Planet B. The earth is the only home we will know and we must do all we can to save it from the neglect of those who have gone before us. We are angry becausegovernmentshave failed to act accordingly, continuously prioritising profit over life. We simply cannot understand why they are not doing more to stop climate collapse.
The warning was sounded as far back as thirty years ago when the United Nations joined forces with the world’s scientists to clearly state that carbon emissions needed to be drastically cut if climate collapse was to be averted. It is unbelievable to us that three decades later emissions have not been cut at all but instead have risen by 60% without any slowing down of this rise. Experts are concerned that there will be more tension in the Middle East as a consequence of climate collapse. A recent report in the Guardian described how droughts in Guatemala due to lack of rainfall were forcing citizens of that country to make perilous journeys to the US to escape poverty and starvation. Upon arrival they are humiliated and treated like criminals. This breakdown of humanity is only going to get worse if we don’t take collective responsibility and pursue radical solutions to combat environmental disaster. The most frustrating aspect of all this is that change to hopefully stop the worst of the disaster could still be possible if there is the political will.
We know we couldn’t just stand by and do nothing. One of us – Mohamed Aidid – is the Youth Mayor of Bristol; the other – Fareha Rahman – is a volunteer for Islamic Relief. We realised that it is our responsibility to lead by example and play an active role in the youth strike for climate. We handed in a petition to the mayor and his office from young people all across Bristol and made a short speech about the undeniable danger of climate change and how we must be fighting for climate justice. We pointed out that Anthropogenic Climate Change is caused mostly by human activity. Such climate change has a massively detrimental impact on human society and on all natural systems. We suggested that climate change is blighting the lives of people in the developing countries, displacing them and turning them into climate refugees. It may lead to the ruin of their economies, exacerbate health problems that already pose a major burden on vulnerable communities, and will affect food security. Hurricanes, floods and typhoons are becoming more frequent and more severe, the polar icecaps are melting, and temperatures in certain parts of the worlds have now reached a level way beyond the human capacity to bear. We must understand we currently live in a world in which overpopulation is an issue and there is an inaptitude to adequately provide for those vulnerable and less fortunate. We currently have the chance to prevent things from getting worse but we aren’t doing anything about it. The cost of prevention is nothing in comparison to the cost of fixing the damage. Some forms of damage, like a life, are irredeemable. Another frightening consequence is that millions of young people will never get to fulfil their goals and dreams – thanks to the mistakes made by past generations and their apathy and unwillingness to deal with the issue at hand. The implications lie ahead, and the need to agitate for action falls upon us.
We became aware of the YouthStrike4Climate and Extinction Rebellion movement from social media, after seeing promotions and preparations for the strike. Of course the demographic of the strike was us young people, and it really captured our imagination, with the strike becoming a big topic amongst our peers. After having contemplated whether we should attend the strike or not, we decided that making an active gesture by being involved and supporting the idea of a necessary change, was more important than the French lesson we would miss.
Our school was very supportive and understood why we felt the need to strike. The consequence of a day of absence from our classes, in our eyes, was nothing compared to a day of effort taken to save our future. Our school appreciated the fact that it is time us young people had our voices heard.
With such activism, we hope to achieve more awareness of climate change and the need for climate justice but also the need for more diversity and more accessibility within climate justice movements. Climate change is an issue that touches all races and cultures in some way, shape or form and it is an issue that everyone should be able to relate to. We can all make a difference. Even by doing small things like bringing awareness during school assemblies or by organising petitions. Collectively and united we can make a big difference. For change to occur on such a momentous issue, collective action is essential – and that is what we aim for.
Social media has played a massive part in energising and encouraging people to join the movement. Although social media has some horrible negatives but one of its assets is its ability bring people together and that’s why so many people are enthused and riled up about climate collapse.
Muslim communities can do more to engage with the issue of climate collapse. Muslim countries are amongst the first to be affected by the severity of climate change – many have begun to feel the consequences of temperature rises, water shortages, desertification, sea level rises and massive flooding. Poorer Muslim countries do not have resources to cope with the terrible ways in which climate change will disrupt the lives of their citizens. So it is important for us Muslim not just to be fully aware of the consequences of climate change but also to take action to break and reverse the trends.
What are YouthStrike4Climate and Extinction Rebellion calling for? We are in a time of an intense crisis. Sheer desperation is forcing us young people to act, yet we feel ignored by those in power. We young people demand that governments take immediate action. And we will continue to protest and rebel and to do what we need to do to fight for our future.
There are numerous brilliant, detailed proposals for how things could change, how problems could be solved. But we can’t make changes without taking our power back, getting more connected to each other and to the wider world. We reckon wholesale system change needs a mass movement of people willing to take disruptive, loving and effective direct actions, saying no to the destruction and deadly policies, and yes to life sustaining alternatives. An inclusive uprising will have many ways for people to get involved. It must be effective and sustainable, it must be fun.
Our demand is that the Government must tell the truth about the severity of climate change, and just how deadly our situation is. It must reverse all policies not in alignment with that position and must work alongside the media to communicate the urgency for change including what individuals, communities and businesses need to do. The Government must enact legally-binding policies to reduce carbon emissions in the UK to net zero by 2025 and take further action to remove the excess of atmospheric greenhouse gases. It must cooperate internationally so that the global economy runs on no more than half a planet’s worth of resources per year. We demand a Citizens’ Assembly to oversee the changes, as we rise from the wreckage, creating a democracy fit for purpose.
Our International Non-Violent Rebellion Against the World’s Governments for Criminal Inaction on the Ecological Crisis has begun.