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September 20, 2019

Marching for our future


September 20, 2019

For a nation that seems to have lost hope on so many fronts, there may be a new ray of light right ahead of us. Young people across Pakistan have been taking part in preparations for the global climate strike, which is to begin in all the largest cities of the world today. The idea is to focus the attention of world leaders on what is possibly the most critical issue faced by our planet – climate change. In Lahore, Karachi and other cities, young people in particular appear to have recognized this. The flame lit by teenage Swedish activist Greta Thunberg has made its way around the world, a huge achievement in an age when young people seem increasingly apolitical and indifferent to issues around them.

Thousands are expected to take to the streets across Pakistan, including the big cities of Lahore and Karachi and the capital Islamabad as well as Gilgit-Baltistan, and parts of Khyber Paktunkhwa and Balochistan. The initiative will bring together communities affected by a myriad of climate-related disasters, including glacial overflow, smog, drought, mining, water pollution and flooding. The human impact on the climate is crucial to explain the melting of glaciers in the north of Pakistan, as well as the water shortages that have existed in southern Sindh for almost a decade. Only recently, small farmers in Sindh took out a long march to highlight their plight – an issue that did not receive as much coverage as it deserved. In Gilgit-Baltistan, a number of environmental activists, including Baba Jan, remain in jail for protesting the lack of empathy shown by the government to the victims of the Attabad Lake disaster, which was a product of glacial melting. The marches in Pakistan will also demand the release of all environmental activists that have been jailed across the country.

What has been encouraging is the participation of schools in the lead up to the march. The young of course have more to lose. It is they who face the true dangers of an earth where only acid rain falls, where clean water is scarce and where millions of species are set to go extinct. The next generation will not merely have to get a job and make a living, it will be responsible for ensuring that the world remains hospitable to humans. Students in around 117 countries of the world are expected to undertake school strikes today, which will now be joined by thousands of workers’ unions across the world. This is the kind of solidarity that the Climate March in Pakistan has also attempted to build. Independent activists are to be joined by students, workers unions, farmer’s organisations and progressive political parties in the marches. There is little doubt that Pakistan lies in the midst of a climate emergency, made worse by ongoing government policies. The solution does not lie in merely banning the use of plastic bags, it lies in rethinking how Pakistan will industrialise and how else can we protect our air and our water supplies. The future of the world lies away from fossil fuels. It also lies in rethinking the whole system of greed and exploitation on which our lives are now based. Today’s climate march should just be a beginning in efforts to make policymakers understand that.

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