To tell you why I’m joining the Climate Strike this September, I need to start with a box.
In June of 2016, my great-grandmother ‘Dada Ming’ passed away at 96 years old. In her will she left a lot for her grandkids and great-grandchildren to remember her by. My sister received some personal mementos; I got a box.
The box wasn’t even intended for me, not really. It said: “For Rio’s first son.” Today it’s still in a corner of my room, its contents a mystery, waiting.
Think of me as the prologue. My job is to pave a way for the next story to begin, and hopefully have some fun along the way. But there’s a problem: a ruinous storm of climate emergencies is about to burst right through our collective doorstep.
Who is responsible? Most of the fumes melting the Arctic today were in the air before I was born. My generation got here just in time for the aftermath. It’s like starting a video game where the final boss is in the opening room – without any chance to get any good loot at all.
That boss is Ramon Ang, billionaire owner of San Miguel company in the Philippines, who still endorses new coal. It’s Rex Tillerson, former US Secretary of State, who as CEO of ExxonMobil funded politicians to deny climate change. That somebody includes the first colonisers who dug up compacted dinosaur bones for fuel and money, who built and still maintain the fossil-fuel economy. That somebody is the enemy.
Make no mistake. These politicians and billionaires are willing to let the world burn because they trust their riches to keep them from the fires.
The situation is obscene. Sometimes it’s enough to knock the breath out of my lungs. Then I give myself a knock on the head. There are more than enough reasons out there to keep acting with purpose and hope.
We know what to do, who to fight, and how to do it. Emissions must stop now, and doing that requires action paired with strategy and rigour. To not just withstand, but thrive through the coming storm, we have to topple the billionaires, and replace the cruel, unsustainable system standing before us with something just and new.
Why am I joining the Climate Strike this September? Because of my great-grandmother. Because of the gift she left for my future son. Because this is my life and I have a right to live it, free from the dictates of a system imposed by a greedy few, who would doom the rest of us for a few more dollars in their pockets.
Those are my reasons – and I bet you have yours, too.
This September 20 to 27, youth around the world will be striking: for our lives, our hopes, our future. Everybody must join. This is the youth’s planet to inherit, and ours to win – and when September comes, I hope to see you there marching with us.