The Act of Protesting for the Climate

On the 20th of September millions of people took to the streets and government buildings in their country to protest for a change in policy and to show their anger at the lack of action for climate justice. I was one of those people.

The actions here in sunny South Africa were smaller than a large portion of first world countries but it doesn’t mean that they didn’t have an impact or they weren’t important. It all adds up – it all becomes important.

Photo by Jack Conradie

There were two main actions in my city, one was a slightly smaller human chain that directly targeted a specific corporation that was taking no accountability for it’s actions and the other was a march through the CBD to the gauteng legislation. I took part in the human chain and was one of the youth speakers at the event.

The event I went to turned out to be much smaller (numbers maxed out at just over 200 people) but that didn’t make that much of a difference in terms of energy, engagement and message. We were small in numbers but we were not alone in mindset and in message. We were joining together with millions of other people across the country and across the world, who like us were fighting the same battle. Uniting for the same cause.

It was a powerful day, filled with powerful moments, powerful people and powerful messages. I believe I was part of those powerful people and I think that my speech and the message I was speaking about was important. I hope it resonated with the people there.

There are a few very important things that I took away from the day.

Climate justice doesn’t just start and stop with policy change. In order to seek the change we need, we need to shift our mindset around the way we use and abuse our environment and change the culture behind it. It’s more than just holding governments and corporations accountable – we need to hold ourselves accountable too.

The voice of the youth is not only vitally important in these situations but it is also one of the most powerful tools. People seem to listen to the younger generations more in these situations. Whether it is in pity or they are looking for hope or the youth make the whole situation feel more accessible, they tend to listen more to what the youth are saying and really process what they are saying. I felt it not only with my own speech but with the other youth speakers speeches. There was a hum of acknowledgment in the air when they stood on the stage and spoke.

Photo by Jack Conradie

We do have power, as people we have power and we need to push forward the power we have to create change. We may feel small and helpless, I know I have. I go through the motions of fear and anger and eventual hopelessness when it comes to the climate crisis but it eventually get past that hopelessness and that is where the raw passion-fueled power to change lies. We must feel all these things, fear, anger, hopelessness because it is in these emotions that we will move the stubborn mountains of carbon criminals.

But the most important thing I took away from the day is this:
It doesn’t end with the march, our actions don’t end after the march. We have to keep going and keep the momentum. I often find with movements the momentum dies after the march either permanently or until the next march or big protest. We have to keep it up. We have to keep going and the best way we can do that? Is not actually through protesting continuously although that is a big factor but rather it is through living our lives consciously of our individual impact and educating others on the matter. It takes one moment, one decision and one person to change the world. All we have to do is pay it forward and ask others to do the same.

We will change the world if globally we choose life over lifestyle.

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