Environment

What We Saw at the Climate Strikes Throughout Asia and Australia

Protesters around the Asia Pacific braved the rain, skipped classes, and dodged strict government rules to demand action on climate change.
September 24, 2019, 6:46am
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Inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, millions of people gathered in at least 150 countries over the weekend to take part in the Global Climate Strike. In the Asia Pacific, a region plagued by environmental mismanagement, young people turned up in the streets, public parks, and schools with homemade signs to fight for their future. This meant braving the rain, skipping classes, and dodging strict government rules to demand action on climate change.

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VICE reported from six cities in the region to speak with protesters about what they’re fighting for, who they’re holding accountable, and how they plan to solve the earth’s innumerable problems.

Philippines

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Protesters form the earth in Manila. Photo from VICE Asia.

“We are unstoppable, a better world is possible,” protesters in Manila shouted as they marched to the University of the Philippines Diliman’s College of Science amphitheatre on Friday, September 20. The crowd consisted of elementary school-aged kids, college students, and seasoned activists. According to 350.org’s Chuck Baclagon, around 600 people showed up.

The highlight of the event was the human banner that had participants holding up blue and green tiles to the sky to form an image of the earth. This was followed by cultural performances and speeches from representatives of indigenous groups.

In the end, attendees recited a pledge to continue to fight for the environment. “For today, we will be going home but we’ll be coming back more organised, and more in numbers, and stronger than ever,” Baclagon said.

Singapore

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Singapore protesters engage in a symbolic "die-in." Photo by Edoardo Liotta.

On Saturday, September 21, crowds gathered at Singapore’s Hong Lim Park for the country’s first-ever climate rally. Public rallying is illegal in the country, except at the park's Speakers Corner where it is allowed by permit.

The event kicked off with a variety of activities including banner painting, face painting, and an emotional “Share Your Climate Crisis Story” station. The entire crowd engaged in a symbolic “die-in” in solidarity with the suffering global environment, before closing off with a picnic.

India

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"More trees, less ass holes," says a protester's shirt in Mumbai. Photo by Shamani Joshi.

Despite a downpour, the rain couldn’t dampen spirits in Mumbai, as hundreds came out to fight for their planet at the Shivaji Statue on Friday. Organised by campaigning start-up Jhatkaa, the protest saw several young people skipping school and ditching work to speak up against deforestation, fracking, and plastic pollution.

Activists, students, singers, bankers, writers, and engineers all came together in an event that involved power-packed speeches, protest songs, and chants.

“Earth doesn’t need us; the earth will survive. It’s us who need the earth,” said Aaliyah, one of the protestors present.

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Students protest in Delhi. Photo by Pallavi Pundir.

On the same day, the streets of central Delhi—the seat of political power in India—came alive with slogans that demanded "azaadi" (freedom) from all the things that hurt our planet. Organised by the India chapters of Fridays for Future and Extinction Rebellion, the marchincluded school children, parents, teachers, and environmental organisations.

The protest was directed towards the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. Their concerns were brought by the increasing droughts, floods, and the extinction of species caused by climate change.

Indians are increasingly becoming climate refugees because of heatwaves, pollution, water shortage, and unemployment. The protesters had one message: We take action now before it's too late.

Indonesia

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Young protesters in Jakarta. Photo by Syarifah Sadiyah.

In Jakarta, 2,500 people joined the fight to save the environment at the Cut Meutia Mosque on Friday, Sept. 20. Participants included school kids in uniforms and young professionals.

Protesters marched towards Jakarta’s City Hall and National Palace, waving posters that said “Let’s Fuck Each Other, Not The Planet” and “We Can Change This.” They chanted the phrase “push back the climate crisis” and called on Indonesian President Joko Widodo to support the Climate Strike and fulfil their demands through tangible policies.

“The government must act fast. If they don’t, it is young people who will suffer. Hopefully, today will mark the beginning of a youth movement to prevent climate change worldwide,” said Sisilia Nurmala Dewi of 350.org.

Australia

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More than 150,000 protesters come together in Melbourne. Photo from VICE Australia.

You could feel a real sense of community during the Friday march through Melbourne, even though more than 150,000 people reportedly attended. It felt wholesome and safe—like protesters were neighbours meeting up in their local park.

There was a positive energy. Everyone was conscious of each other's space but open to having a chat with strangers. Still, the importance and exasperation of fighting for the environment was felt through powerful speeches delivered by representatives from aboriginal communities, climate activists, and event organisers.