Student activism, often known as campus activism, refers to activities done by students to effect political, environmental, economic, or social change. Despite their concentration on schools, curriculum, and educational financing, student groups have had an impact on larger, global events. The students of a country act as the pioneer for its future, voicing their concerns in all the affecting spheres of society. Their protests range from university’s policies to political agendas, from dismissal of a faculty to impeachment of a President. This wide range helps in making the protests efficient and successful.  

Modern student activist movements vary greatly in subject, size, and success, with students from all educational settings, of all races, socioeconomic backgrounds, and political perspectives, taking part. Some student demonstrations are directed at the internal politics of a certain institution, while others are directed against bigger causes such as war or dictatorship.

Most of the prominent student protests today are for topics that transcend territories, such as racism, discrimination, democracy, fundamental rights, LGBTQIA+ rights, women rights, Environmentalism, etc. However, most of the impactful and ‘loud’ strikes that have come to the forefront are addressing Climate Change and the need to address its impact.

The sheer impact of ignorance of climate disparities has brought on the current devastation of the planet and its flora, fauna and inanimate elements. The World Health Organization says 92 percent of the world's population breathes air containing pollutants exceeding WHO limits [WHO,2016]. “Climate change will affect the availability, quality and quantity of water needed for basic human needs, thus undermining enjoyment of the basic rights to safe drinking water and sanitation for billions of people”, warns the latest UN World Water Development Report. Such an impending global crisis could have been avoided by timely interventions of global governments. But the fact that they instead chose to prioritise economic growth, industrial advancement, profits and money over life and quality of living and conservation of a healthy environment, has been an active source of anger in the students. The contribution of the youth in the prospect of Sustainable development is evident in the current scenario as india sent in Licypriya Kangujam; aged just 11, she is already feeling the drastic impact of climate change and is india’s key speaker for the same in the recent COP27, held in Egypt. The acquisition of ‘Loss and Damage’ funds is from the more affluent countries to the countries more susceptible to loss of resources and environment, especially the south asian ones. 

The crucial benchmarks of such protests were as follows:

  1. School Strike for Climate (Swedish: Skolstrejk för klimatet), is an international movement of school students who skip Friday classes to demand action from political leaders to prevent climate change and for the fossil fuel industry to transition to renewable energy. Publicity and extensive organising began after Swedish student Greta Thunberg conducted a demonstration outside the Swedish Riksdag (parliament) in August 2018, holding a banner that said "Skolstrejk för klimatet" ("School strike for climate"). 

  2. On March 15, 2019, a global walkout united over one million strikers in 2,200 actions organised in 125 countries. On May 24, 2019, hundreds of thousands of protestors took part in 1,600 events across 150 countries during the second worldwide strike. The activities were planned to coincide with the European Parliament elections in 2019.

  3. The 2019 Global Week for Future was a series of 4,500 strikes held in over 150 countries between September 20 and September 27. The 20 September strikes, perhaps the greatest in global history, drew around 4 million demonstrators, many of them were kids, including 1.4 million in Germany. On September 27, an estimated two million people marched throughout the world, including over one million demonstrators in Italy and hundreds of thousands in Canada. Indian students in Mumbai and Bangalore conducted several protests so as to shed light on the impact of climate change on the current and future generations.

  4. Juliana, et al. v. United States of America, et al. is a climate-related lawsuit launched in 2015 against the United States and numerous executive branch officials by 21 young plaintiffs. The plaintiffs, represented by the non-profit organisation Our Children's Trust, include Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, members of Martinez's organisation Earth Guardians, and climatologist James Hansen as a "guardian for future generations". They argue that the government has deliberately violated their due process rights to life, liberty, and property, as well as the government's sovereign obligation to maintain public lands, by supporting and allowing the use of fossil fuels. 

When you think about it, the youth of the world has always been at the forefront of global changes. These protests and strikes cementify the fact that speaking up and voicing your criticisms will always leave a mark. They act as precedents for future change, and when performed or organised in a professional manner, lead to changes in the status quo of policies, rules and legislation, implication and drafting of new schemes, etc. But the most important aspect about the youth strikes is how they force the conventional world to address the problematic ideology that has been passed down from generation to generation. 

-Tooba Kazi


Tooba Kazi

Tooba Kazi is currently pursuing a B. A. (Hons) Degree in psychology in Jamia Millia Islamia University. Even though she does not have a fixed set of hobbies, some of the constants include dissecting true crime stories, reading varying genres, playing volleyball, over-analysing screen adaptations, discussing contemporary social topics such as LGBTQIA+ rights, political freedom, and more. Being passionate about writing, words have always wound around their life and helped them in expressing all the intricacies present in the monotony of their daily life.