Pakistanis answer call to march against climate change in vast global protest

Updated September 20, 2019

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Students, children, and civil society members marching to raise awareness for action against climate change. — Climate Action Now Pakistan's Twitter account
Students, children, and civil society members marching to raise awareness for action against climate change. — Climate Action Now Pakistan's Twitter account

A citizen-led initiative of a climate march, organised by Climate Action Now, was held on Friday across Pakistan, joining climate strikes in other countries to help stop global warming.

More than 26 cities and towns took part in the march all over the country, including Mardan, Mithi, Thatta, Kasur, Kotli, Chagai, Killa Abdullah, Peshawar, Chitral, Gilgit, etc.

Read more: Fearing for their future, Karachi's youth march against climate change

Meherbano Raja, a climate activist and part of the organising committee, said Lahore's participants were asked to gather at the Lahore Press Club at 3pm.

“It will be youth led because they are the most affected generation and so they will be leading from the front,” she said, ahead of the march. “These will include school students too.”

In Karachi, protestors gathered at the Frere Hall at 4pm. Artist and teacher Yasir Husain along with Zehra Zaidi of Karachi Citizen Lab started the event.

A protestor in Karachi displays a sign "Killing Nemo" highlighting the menace of sea pollution that has swept the globe. — Sana Ali
A protestor in Karachi displays a sign "Killing Nemo" highlighting the menace of sea pollution that has swept the globe. — Sana Ali

Cultural activist Sheema Kermani, while addressing a charged group of people, said that everyone should be involved in the event "because it (climate change) is going to affect us all".

She said the aim of the march was to bring climate change to the knowledge of the government as they are responsible for environmental emergencies.

As the crowds begun to swell, protestors started chanting: “What do we want? Climate justice!”

15 -year-old Rimsha from SMB Fatima Jinnah also addressed the gathering, calling attention to the fact that people are no longer able to breathe fresh air.

Rimsha Ali, 15, a student of Fatima Jinnah Government School, speaking about the injustice of children being affected, in Karachi. — Climate Action Now! Pakistan's Twitter account
Rimsha Ali, 15, a student of Fatima Jinnah Government School, speaking about the injustice of children being affected, in Karachi. — Climate Action Now! Pakistan's Twitter account

"If people love their families and their country, they must understand their responsibilities [towards the environment]," she said.

Celebrities as well as leaders, including Senator Sherry Rehman, called on people to participate in the climate march.

More than 5,000 events were planned worldwide for what was one of the largest-ever collective calls to action in a movement fuelled by social media under the hashtag #climatestrike.

In New York, 1.1 million students in around 1,800 public schools were permitted to skip school.

A large inflatable globe is bounced through the crowd as thousands of protestors, many of them school students, gather in Sydney on Friday, calling for action to guard against climate change. — AP
A large inflatable globe is bounced through the crowd as thousands of protestors, many of them school students, gather in Sydney on Friday, calling for action to guard against climate change. — AP

Dubbed the "Fridays for Future" movement, the campaign wants children around the world to take a more active role in persuading adults to treat climate change more seriously.

They are demanding politicians and businesses take the drastic action needed to stop global warming, which scientists warn will lead to environmental catastrophe under current trends.

Afghanistan

In the Afghan capital Kabul, where people are dying every day in horrific bomb attacks, a young generation, worried that if war doesn't kill them climate change will, took part in the global climate strike.

About 100 young people, with several young women in the front carrying a banner emblazoned with “Fridays for future”, marched through central Kabul, following behind an armored personnel carrier deployed for their protection as well as half a dozen army personnel with automatic rifles scattered behind them and along the route.

Fardeen Barakzai, one of the organisers and head of the local save-the-climate group called Oxygen said “we want to do our part. We as the youth of our country know the problem of climate change. We know war can kill a group of people ... the problem in Afghanistan is our leaders are fighting for power but the real power is in nature.”

Australia

Protesters with placards participate in the Global Strike 4 Climate rally in Sydney on Friday. ─ AP
Protesters with placards participate in the Global Strike 4 Climate rally in Sydney on Friday. ─ AP

Some of the first rallies kicked off in Australia’s largest city, Sydney, and the national capital, Canberra. Australian demonstrators called for their nation, which is the world’s largest exporter of coal and liquid natural gas, to take more drastic action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Organisers estimated more than 300,000 protesters took to Australian streets.

Australia’s acting prime minister has described ongoing climate rallies as “just a disruption” that should have been held on a weekend to avoid inconveniencing communities.

Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack said students would learn more at school than at protests.

Germany

In Germany, which has seen large-scale climate rallies for over a year, police said 17,000 people had gathered in the southwestern city of Freiburg, one of 500 cities across the country where protests were planned.

In the capital Berlin and Germany’s financial hub of Frankfurt some protesters staged brief road blockades to highlight their demands for a drastic reduction in the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, to which transport is a major contributor.

Under pressure from sustained protests over the past months, the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel is planning to announce a package of measures to reduce Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions later today.

India

Demonstrations were held in India's cities, including Mumbai and New Delhi — one of the world’s most polluted cities.

Dozens of students and environmental activists chanted “We want climate action” and “I want to breathe clean” at a rally outside the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.

They carried banners with some displaying messages like “There is no Earth B.”

Philippines

Environmental activists hold placards during a rally outside the Department of Environment and Natural Resources on Friday at suburban Quezon city, Philippines. ─ AP
Environmental activists hold placards during a rally outside the Department of Environment and Natural Resources on Friday at suburban Quezon city, Philippines. ─ AP

Thousands protested in the Philippines, which experts say faces threats from rising sea levels and increasingly violent storms.

"There are a lot of people here who can feel the effects of climate change already, for example with typhoons," Yanna Palo, 23, told AFP at a rally in the capital Manila.

"I don't know if we're on the frontline of the fight against climate change, but I hope so."

Thailand

Young environmental activists play dead as they participate in a Global Climate Strike at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment office in Bangkok on Friday. ─ Reuters
Young environmental activists play dead as they participate in a Global Climate Strike at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment office in Bangkok on Friday. ─ Reuters

More than 200 young people in Thailand stormed into the environment ministry and dropped to the ground feigning death as they demanded government action on climate change.

The young strikers were chanting “Save our Earth” as they marched into the government compound, before lying down on the ground to play dead.

“This is what will happen if we don’t act on climate change now,” said one of the strike leaders, Nanticha Ocharoenchai, 21.

An official at the Ministry of Natural Resource and Environment was supportive of the student action.

“This is how the young people express their concerns, which we deem as a good sign and not at all a nuisance,” Adisorn Noochdumrong, deputy permanent secretary of the ministry, told Reuters.

United Kingdom

Thousands of school pupils and their adult supporters gathered outside the British Parliament in London to demand “climate justice” and stronger action to tackle global warming.

A large crowd filled London's government district, and there were also rallies in UK cities including Birmingham, Glasgow and Belfast, as part of a “Global Climate Strike.”

Some demonstrators held home-made placards with slogans including “Don't be a fossil fool” and “Make our planet Greta again,” a reference to 17-year-old activist Greta Thunberg, who sparked the global climate strike movement.

The British government said it endorsed the protesters' message, but didn't condone skipping school.

Jessica Ahmed, a 16-year-old London student, said that “if politicians were taking the appropriate action we need and had been taking this action a long time ago when it was recognized the world was changing in a negative way, then I would not have to be skipping school. I would be doing the maths exam I have studied for.”