Updated at 4.30pm

Eight-year-old Samwel Attard struck a chord when he took the microphone at an environmental rally on Friday, asking why developers were building over the last remaining countryside on the island. 

“I want to be heard by those who are cutting down the last trees… I wish the air didn’t smell like exhaust fumes, it smells so fresh when I go abroad. I wish there wasn’t so much plastic when I swim in the sea… I wish you would listen to me,” the young boy told a gathering of a few hundred students.

Students marched from the University of Malta’s Msida campus to the Valletta Parliament building, as thousands across the globe also took part in symbolic strikes for action to combat climate change.

Tens of thousands of young people skipped school across the globe on Friday to march through the streets for an international day of student protests aimed at pushing world leaders into action on climate change.

Classrooms in capitals from Bangkok to Berlin, Lagos to London emptied as as ambitious organisers of the student strike hoped to stage 1,000 demos in more than 100 countries.

As youngsters hit the streets in cities across the globe, nations meeting at the UN environment assembly in the Kenyan capital Nairobi announced that they had agreed to "significantly reduce" single-use plastics over the next decade.

But experts said the pledge - which only referred to man-made global warming and made no mention of the fossil fuels driving it - fell far short of the steps needed to tackling Earth's burgeoning pollution crisis.

Young Samwel Attard was among the activists. Video: Ivan Martin

European reports put Malta among the continent's lowest achievers in terms of tackling climate change.

Marching through St Anne’s Street in Floriana, hundreds of Maltese students chanted “climate justice now”.

Placards read; “wake up!”, “don’t destroy our future”, and “less petrol stations more balls” among others.

The local march was announced on Wednesday and traffic was halted from University to Valletta for half an hour as students filled the street.

The wave of youth activism began with 16-year-old Greta Thunberg from Sweden, who last August began camping outside the Swedish parliament and accused lawmakers of failing to uphold their commitments to fight climate change as agreed to under the Paris climate accord.

Placards read; “wake up!”, “don’t destroy our future”, and “less petrol stations more balls”

Students at St Michael's hold up placards they made to support the event. Photo: Jonathan BorgStudents at St Michael's hold up placards they made to support the event. Photo: Jonathan Borg

The young Ms Thunberg says she was inspired by students from the Parkland school in Florida, who walked out of classes in protest against the US gun laws that enabled a bloody massacre on their campus.

As word of her strike spread, she made headlines, and was invited to speak to climate negotiators in talks last December in Poland and more recently to global leaders in Davos, Switzerland.

Ms Thunberg has now been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

'Climate change is like Jenga'

Steven Bajada, 19, who helped organise today’s gathering in Valletta, said climate change was a domino chain.

The first domino was already wobbling, he said, warning that once it fell, the damage could not be undone. The “runaway train” of carbon sinks becoming carbon sources, and coral reefs being relegated to the history books, was the fruit of decades of inaction.

“Climate change is like a game of Jenga [A tower building game]. We are pulling out blocks and just hoping the whole tower won’t fall,” he said.

His speech ended with a call to arms: “if we all shout loud enough maybe the people in the chamber behind me [Parliament] will hear us”.

The University and sixth form students were joined by youngsters from Valletta’s St Albert the Great College and around a dozen others who got their school’s permission to join the protest march.

Placards prepared for the event. Photo: Mark Zammit CordinaPlacards prepared for the event. Photo: Mark Zammit Cordina

Elsa Cassar, 19, who chairs the Youth Scout Council, said young scouts were asking why the fields they once played in were now turning into construction sites.

“We are tired of the ‘same old’ mentality,” she said.

Marches across the globe

Ambitious organisers of the global student strike hoped to stage 1,000 demos in more than 100 countries.

Students flooded into the streets in Wellington, Sydney, Bangkok and Hong
Kong carrying placards that read "There is no planet B", "You're destroying our future" and "If you don't act like adults, we will."

In Delhi, one of the world's most polluted cities, around 200 students took part in a colourful protest, waving ribbons, juggling and performing stunts with hoops.

 

Young activists at the University campus. Photo: Mark Zammit CordinaYoung activists at the University campus. Photo: Mark Zammit Cordina

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