Panic.

This is the message of the Climate Strike movement. The word stirs emotions of chaos and fear, so why do the youth leading the Climate Strike channel these feelings?

While the answer to this question is complex, it boils down to fear that youth everywhere feel for the future.

Current projections of climate change leave us, the younger generations, with hard questions no one before us has had to answer. Will we have children? And if we do, will they face increased rates of cancer, asthma and other diseases linked to environmental degradation and pollution? Will our hometowns be left standing after climate disasters? Will we live to see the point of no return in this anthropogenic apocalypse?

The extreme existential crisis we internalize every day is, in short, panic. Thus the word, idea and feeling of panic is intentionally central. Its blunt force makes those around who are passive in the fight against climate change open their ears to the demand for change.

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The underlying reason for the Climate Strike movement is two-pronged. The first is to instill the panic today’s youth feel in the hearts of those in positions of power. Secondly, it is to create community and hope.

Today we live in a society where the most influential country in the world is failing to legitimize the climate change epidemic and accept the science behind it as a fact. Thus the world needs the Climate Strike movement to disrupt those who will not be disrupted by the increasing climate instability.

“The world needs the Climate Strike movement to disrupt those who will not be disrupted by the increasing climate instability.”

Those in power, both economically and politically, have failed the younger generations by being passive in their efforts to transition to renewable energy and crack down on big agriculture. The overuse of land and resources has led humanity to a tipping point where the people must unite to hold these corporations and politicians accountable or make their children face the consequences of their inaction.  

The climate is on a projected path — like a moving walkway leading the Earth to a point of no return. Humans created the moving walkway as a way to increase productivity, but it has been overused and is now unsustainable.

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Many walk with the flow of the machine — walking increases productivity and profits. These people represent corporations in the fossil fuel and agriculture industries who are aggressively degrading the Earth, or the politicians who represent the companies’ interests, instead of the wellbeing of their constituents.

There are also many on the walkway who don’t realize they are moving. They will think because they recycle and participate in meatless Mondays, they are not adding to the issue. Unknowingly, they too are being brought to the point of no return. This is because it requires actively walking against the moving tracks to make a difference.

That is what the Climate Strike movement is — a framework for a group of motivated and informed youth and allies to collectively run against the machine. This disruption is what is required and the panic caused by oncoming runners is what is needed to wake people up.

This is why the Climate Strike movement is not simply important, but critical in pushing for an equitable and sustainable Earth.

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The general population cannot stand by with their metal straws and complain about lawmakers choosing profit over people. They must sacrifice their time and resources to make a dent in the norm of extraction, pollution and corruption which has plagued the Earth since the rise of capitalism.

It is easy to say climate change is a non-issue or that it is part of a liberal agenda. It is even easier when someone has not experienced the harmful and sometimes fatal effects of environmental burdens. But ease is not something to strive for. Ease is a false sense of security. It is a lie that is accepted as truth for those who can afford it. Ease is no longer a viable way to live and the Earth needs for us to panic. 

“The Climate Strike movement is the discomfort, it is the disruption, and it will make those who are willfully ignorant to this crisis see it as a fact, not a hypothesis.”

The future of the world has been projected by scientists, but the effects of climate change are not some mystical thing. The effects of climate change are tangible and happening now. If you are skeptical, look no further than Milwaukee, where lead-contaminated water affects more children than the Flint water crisis. Or even right here in Madison, where increased flash flooding has jeopardized our city.

While speaking about this issue may seem radical to some, it is based on social and physical science. Without a harsh and desperate tone, there will be no disruption or discomfort, and the status quo will remain untouched. The Climate Strike movement is the discomfort, it is the disruption, and it will make those who are willfully ignorant to this crisis see it as a fact, not a hypothesis.

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Another important aspect of the Climate Strike movement is fraternity. The interpersonal relationships and energy that a common crisis evokes can become useful.

For better or for worse, there is nothing that unifies people quite like suffering. The Climate Strike is a movement that creates and maintains space for people to experience their emotions, feel validated and productively use them to push the movement forward.

Climate change is deeply troubling. It weighs on the youth of today as the major wars weighed on generations before us. Many hands make for light work. The Climate Strike movement is an attempt to lighten the burden that individuals feel by making it a collective load to carry.

The fraternity that comes from this is strong and beautiful and it is the core of the hope that young people still have to make change. Youth know there is power in numbers — history has taught us such.

The question is: Will you be willing to join us?

Emiliana Almanza Lopez ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in sociology and environmental science.