On March 19, environmental activists from around the world came together, both in-person and virtually, for the first Global Climate Strike of the year. The strike took place in more than 60 countries and 1,000 locations.

2019 was an important year for environmentalism as awareness surrounding climate change increased, and more people began to demand government action. Approximately seven million people worldwide participated in the September climate strikes.

The movement was led by Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg, who had been making global headlines in 2018 for her weekly strikes across from the Swedish Parliament. The teenager went on to create the climate movement Fridays for Future and inspire millions around the globe.

In Toronto, more than 150,000 people took to the streets to demand climate action and fight for a better future during the 2019 climate strike.

However, when 2020 came around, the world was impacted by the novel coronavirus pandemic, and cities began to enforce lockdowns. Protests were cancelled indefinitely, and activists took to social media to continue their campaign.

On January 13, 2021, Fridays for Future published a press release announcing its plans for the next Global Climate Strike. The press release announced the theme for the March Global Climate Strike to be #NoMoreEmptyPromises, holding world leaders accountable for their past assurances of climate action. 

“In the midst of the various public health, sociopolitical, and economic crises that the world continues to face entering the new year, climate activists are gearing up for the next Global Climate Strike on March 19 to demand immediate, concrete, and ambitious action from world leaders in response to the ongoing climate crisis,” read the press release.

The activists had five demands from the City of Toronto in accordance with the Climate Emergency Declaration the City Council issued on October 2, 2019. Fridays for Future Toronto demanded that the city advance its efforts to achieve net-zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, establish an equitable job strategy, publish a report on initiatives and progress by the end of the year, and release an updated 2021 climate action plan.

Due to pandemic regulations, the March 19 protest was made up of 40 or so activists who walked through downtown Toronto while also social distancing. While the participant numbers are incomparable to protests which took place before the global pandemic, it is a welcome reminder that local youth continue to fight for their future and hold the government accountable.

“For over two years now, youth climate activists from around the world have been striking and taking to the streets to demand climate justice,” stated the Fridays for Future press release. “Now, with the Covid-19 pandemic, the actions will be taking on different forms in different places, but their call for #NoMoreEmptyPromises is uniting people beyond borders under the same goal of immediate climate action.”

Since the novel coronavirus was declared a global pandemic, many environmental activists, including Greta Thunberg, have been participating in virtual strikes every Friday. Activists can continue to protest for climate action by joining live streams and video calls while also keeping their communities safe by staying home.Links to weekly virtual strikes around the globe can be found on the Fridays for Future website.

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