Youth climate strikes: why I’ll keep striking and when I’ll stop

Even though my A-level exams are less than two months away, I will not stop striking until the government declares a climate emergency.
Ummi Hoque
By Ummi Hoque    |      Published:  09 Apr 2019    |      3 minute read

During the week of March 15, there were at least 1.6 million youth climate strikers from 7 continents, in more than 125 countries and in over 2000 places.

On both February 15 and March 15, my friends and I headed to Parliament Square, ready to shout our climate demands to hierarchy.

Ummi with her friend holding up a banner that reads "Save our planet" at the Youth Climate Strike in London, March 2019.
Ummi (right) at the Youth Climate Strike in London, March 2019.
Credit: Ummi Hoque

“Turn off the hob, don’t be a knob”

“System change not climate change”

“2, 4, 6, 8, save our planet it’s not too late” zealously chanted against the rhythmic beating of drums.

There’s nothing quite like a youth climate strike: when we strike, we strike in style.

Young people invaded a tourist bus (the bus driver seemed to have approved). We stood in the middle of Westminster Bridge in the midst of traffic whilst truck-drivers of trans-national corporations shouted abuse at us (with their engines still on!).

And several young people risked their lives, climbing the tops of buildings for our voices to be heard.

Ummi Hoque a sixth-form student and a youth forum member for Our Bright Future
Ummi Hoque a sixth-form student and a youth forum member for Our Bright Future
Credit: Ummi Hoque

I used to think I was powerless

As young people we are continually being silenced. The truth of the climate crisis is continually being concealed.

For example, when Michael Gove was the Secretary of State for Education (2010–2014) there was an attempt to drop climate change from the Edexcel A-Level Geography specification. We should be addressing the ecological crisis as an educational priority not hiding the clear facts away.

Even during one of the strikes we were denied a microphone until some young people ran to get permission from ministers.

I can assure you, young people will continue to speak out and fight for what adults have failed to do.

Threatening my future while wiping out my past

I will not stop striking until the government communicates the harsh reality of our ecological crisis to the general public. Until it recognises that young people have the biggest stake in our future and will be affected the most.

When some schools oppose the strikes because they are ‘disrupting our education’, I think what’s the point of studying for a future that’s rapidly melting away by the hands of climate criminals and by our own government?

If anything, these strikes are cultivating skills of social activism: determination, diligence and bravery – skills actually relevant to the world outside the four walls of a classroom.

I will not stop striking because Bangladesh, where my family comes from, is one of the most vulnerable countries at risk of complete destruction due to the impacts of climate change.

I will not stop striking because climate change does not favour a specific race, class, age, gender or any other group. It will affect us ALL. Globally.

So it baffles me why politicians, policy-makers and the people with the utmost power are simply not doing enough. Not caring about our future and for the generations to come.

Clearly, climate change is not the main priority for these oblivious, dismissive people in power, and so it is up to us young people to be the forefront of this catastrophic climate crisis.

Don’t you dare call this a fad

Some people think this is all a fad and still uphold the ‘teenagers are lazy and do nothing’ stereotype. But these strikes have been organised by young people and led by young people.

Many of us are even taking personal action directly to MPs to get our message heard loud and clear.

I officially began my environmental activism through the ‘My World My Home’ programme that is fortunately offered at my college.

Prior to that, I became interested in climate justice after watching a YouTube video exposing the effects of climate change in Greenland, which then sparked me to do a speech on climate change as part of my English GCSE.

Since I finished the programme, it has encouraged me to continue to fight for our planet and I am now a youth forum member for Our Bright Future.

Ummi with other young environmentalists at Friends of the Earth's annual Basecamp event
Ummi with other young environmentalists at Friends of the Earth's annual Basecamp event
Credit: Ummi Hoque

As a youth forum representative, I was invited to Parliament a couple of times to talk to MPs about the environmental action being taken in our schools and what needs to be done to improve the climate crisis. Some MPs showed genuine interest whilst others merely wanted a photo for publicity.

It’s vital to have one-to-one conversation with policy-makers to interrogate and question them about our concerning environmental state. Email your local MP because they will reply at some point. They have to – it’s part of their job.

The next youth climate strike

Yes, I used to think as a young person, I am powerless. But Greta Thunberg completely changed that ideology. One young person quite literally changed the world. For that reason, I will not stop striking until the government wake-up and take climate change as a global emergency that needs immediate action.

See you at the next youth climate strike.

Ummi Hoque, 18, Walthamstow
City and Islington Sixth Form College

Inspired by Ummi's story?

Find out why Lily (below) decided to miss college to join the youth climate strikes.

Whatever your age, we'd love to see you at Friends of the Earth’s Groundswell climate events around the country. Listen to inspirational speakers, and get skilled up at our workshops, so you can take action locally.

A portrait shot of Lily, City & Islington College
Lily, City & Islington College
Credit: Lily