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Reflections on the September 25th Global Actions

Just over a week ago, on the 25th of September, the Fridays for Future movement in Ireland and globally held it’s first coordinated day of action since December of 2019. Although there had been planning for another global day of action similar to September 20th 2019 to be held in April, the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the cancellation of all almost physical actions.

As I returned to my physical strike for the first time in 6 months, many of my fellow activists continued to strike from their bedrooms. Although the pandemic has been contained to a certain degree here in Ireland, many countries are experiencing a second wave, or indeed are still in the midst of their first wave of the virus. A similar fate may befall Ireland, as we have experienced a continuous rise in cases over the last month, and I may be forced to return to online striking for the next global day of action should this trend not reverse itself soon.

Nearly everything that occurs today has to be considered through the lens of the global health emergency which we are currently in the middle of, and this has impacted on almost every aspect of our lives. In the case of climate activism, it has meant that the actions on the 25th of September were but a pale shadow, at least numerically, of those almost exactly a year before on the 20th of September. In Ireland, where last year tens of thousands had marched, only a handful of physical actions took place, with the total participants numbering no more than a hundred nationally. These physical actions were bolstered by some truly creative and powerful actions in places such as Cork, where hundreds of signs from people who would have protested if not for the pandemic were collected and placed in the city. In Dublin, a collage of the faces of hundreds of activists was created. These actions were powerful and demonstrated the continued strength that this movement has, but I do not believe that they had the same impact on the general public or policymakers as the statement which we delivered on September 20th 2019 in the form of tens of thousands of us taking to the streets.

I remember very distinctly the intense emotions and the strength of the movement which I felt on that day. More than at any other point of my two year journey as a climate activist, there was a true sense that change was not only imminent but inevitable. Although the changes that resulted from millions of young people protesting globally were not insignificant, they fell far short of what is necessary. The challenge that we presented to global leaders was simple: take responsibility and act now. Their failure to do so was and continues to be a momentuous failure of both imagination and leadership; one which imperils my very future, and the future of hundreds of millions of young people across the globe. Perhaps most shamefully, those who shall bear the worst effects, are for the most part those who bear the least responsibility for this crisis.

Today, the world is in a very different place to a year ago, but one constant remains; the climate crisis and our inaction on it. Indeed, over the past year, our situation has only worsened. The short term emission dip caused by harsh lockdowns globally is projected to be completed reversed by next year, and emissions shall continue to rise unless we commit to rapid changes immediately.

The impossibility of true physical demonstrations to the scale that happened in 2019 is something that overshadowed the whole September 25th day of actions for me. Although the need for awareness and action has never been higher, it has also never been more difficult to fight. We in this movement need to examine how we can mobilise in the days to come.

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