Thousands join Greta Thunberg in Rome 'Fridays for Future' rally

Thousands turned out for the latest round of "Fridays for Future" protests with Greta Thunberg in Rome. The young activist admitted she may be "naive" for hoping that "we fix the climate and the ecological crisis."

Thousands of primary, middle school and university students have joined teenage environmental activist Greta Thunberg at a "Fridays for Future" protest in Rome.

Organizers said 25,000 people attended the demonstration in Piazza del Popolo, a square in the centre of Rome.

The protesters chanted "we want Greta" and "with Greta we save the planet" before Thunberg addressed the crowd.

Thunberg told the mass of young people their aim should be that when they are older they can say they did everything they could to help the climate.

Nature and Environment | 12.03.2019

"I do many small things just to change my habits, like I have become vegan, I have stopped flying, I have stopped shopping and small things like that," Thunberg said.

"We children are not sacrificing our education and our childhood for the adults and politicians to tell us what they consider is politically possible in the society they have created," the 16-year-old told the crowd. "We have not taken to the streets for them to take selfies with us, and tell us that they really, really admire what we do.
Read more: Trains vs. planes: What's the real cost of travel?

Student climate strikes go global

'If you don't act like adults, we will'

Thousands of students walked out of class in Sydney, kicking off global protests on Friday. They got the attention they wanted. Some Australian politicians hit back with criticism. "For action on issues that they think is important, they should do that after school or on weekends," said Education Minister Dan Tehan.

Student climate strikes go global

Students bring grown-ups into line

Protesters in New Zealand invited adults to join the march. "If we go on strike on a school day, then they'll notice and they might want to do something," said 14-year-old student Inese, who didn't want to give her full name. And her prime minister is listening. Jacinda Ardern supports the strikes and has pledged NZ$100 million (€60 million/$68 million) to cut greenhouse gases.

Student climate strikes go global

Truth to power

The movement has snowballed since 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg began skipping school to protest in front of parliament last August. On March 15, her protest spread from Vanuatu to Hong Kong (pictured here), Tashkent to Madagascar. In Thailand, one of the world's top plastic polluters, students campaigned against single-use plastics.

Student climate strikes go global

Seoul to Singapore

From Seoul to Singapore, each city's students spoke out in their own way. Here in South Korea, 100 students held signs saying "Too warm 4 school" and "Don't deny climate change." In Singapore, strict laws regulate public assembly so young people planned a virtual campaign on social media.

Student climate strikes go global

'To educate adults'

In India, protests were seen in 36 different cities, including New Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bangalore. Students in New Delhi chanted slogans demanding the Indian government stop using coal and act against climate change and air pollution.

Student climate strikes go global

Berlin takes matters into its own hands

While German Chancellor Angela Merkel has supported the movement, some German students are still afraid to skip school. But not all. Protests were planned for 200 cities across the country. In the German capital, the crowds were huge by midday.

Student climate strikes go global

Braving the storm

In the western German city of Cologne, students braved the wet weather. Massive storms have recently battered that part of the country, though they only appeared to fan the flames of the students' protest.

Student climate strikes go global

Swedish inspiration

Greta Thunberg (center) led one of the many protests in Sweden. She said she was excited that protests had spread to 2,052 places in 123 countries. Asked if adults should strike too, she replied: "It's up to them, if they want their kids to have a future."

Student climate strikes go global

'Denial is not a policy'

Students in South African cities, including Cape Town and Pretoria, joined in the school strike. Africa, with more than 1 billion people, is expected to be hardest hit by global warming even though it contributes the least to greenhouse gas emissions.

Student climate strikes go global

Strike across the US

Strikes were held by students in cities across the country, including New York, Washington, Chicago, Portland, Oregon and St. Paul, Minnesota. In June 2017, US President Donald Trump announced that the US was withdrawing from the 2015 Paris agreement on mitigating climate change.

Student climate strikes go global

Guterres: 'My generation has failed'

Montreal drew among the largest crowds, estimated by organizers at nearly 150,000. The global movement saw a response from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who said he was inspired by the climate strikers to call a special summit in September to deal with "the climate emergency."

When asked if she had possibly stolen the limelight away from her cause, Thunberg rejected the notion, saying she did not like being a celebrity.

"I mean I don't enjoy attention, but I enjoy making a difference," she said, adding that she wanted to make sure that climate crisis was always the main focus of any trip.

Read more: Environmental psychology: How do you feel about that coffee to go?

Thunberg inspired the rounds of protests when she began weekly sit-ins outside Stockholm's Parliament House with her "school strike for climate" sign in August 2018.

Related Subjects

The movement sees students skip school on Fridays and instead take to the streets to demand action on climate change.

While the protest in Rome was held on a Friday as usual, Italian schools were already closed for the Easter vacation.

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12:35 mins.
Reporter | 18.03.2019

Skipping School for a Cause

Thunberg admits her hope may be 'very naive'

"I think what I want for the future is just that we fix everything and that we fix the climate and the ecological crisis so that everyone lives in peace, I guess, very naive," she told reporters as she shrugged her shoulders.

Thunberg warned that it was up to current world leaders to find solutions because time was running out.

"When I am grown up, when I am old enough to become a politician, I mean it will be too late to act because we need to act now," she said. "We can't wait for people like me to grow up and become the ones in charge."

Thunberg spoke briefly with Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square on Wednesday. She said Francis, who promotes environmental protection, was "very kind, encouraging" to her.

Students share their concerns

Before Thunberg addressed the crowd in Rome, some of the students attending the protest had the chance to share their views.

The youngest speaker was nine-year-old Alice. "I am 9, nearly 10, and I understand we need to act now. I always loved nature and I don't want it to end, so that's why we are here to save it," she said.

Read more: Climate protection: Where do the EU's right-wing populists stand?

Flavio Frontaloni, a student at the Roma Tre University, drew applause from the crowd after he accused Italian deputy premier Matteo Salvini of rejecting the notion of climate change.

He said Salvini and other members of his far-right League party voted against the Paris Agreement on climate change as members of the European Parliament. "We won't forget this," Frontaloni said.   

law/msh (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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