Intended for healthcare professionals


Schoolchildren’s activism is a lesson for health professionals

BMJ 2019; 365 doi: (Published 01 May 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;365:l1938

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One person can change the world, and you can help

Linked opinion

Act now on the climate crisis

  1. Robin Stott, executive member1,
  2. Richard Smith, former editor2,
  3. Rowan Williams, master3,
  4. Fiona Godlee, editor in chief2
  1. 1UK Climate and Health Council, London, UK
  2. 2The BMJ, London, UK
  3. 3Magdalene College, Cambridge, UK
  1. Correspondence to: R Stott stott{at}

Like them, we must campaign relentlessly for carbon net zero by 2030

In March, hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren in 2000 cities from 123 countries left school to call for action on climate change. They inspired millions more, including the non-violent direct activists participating in the Extinction Rebellion protests, and set an example for those of us who are older (and possibly less wise). Now the Friday strikes happen in many countries every week (#FridaysForFuture).

It is young people who will be most affected by the floods, desertification, fires, hunger, disease, mass migration, and wars caused by climate change. These disastrous consequences have already begun and will grow rapidly worse without urgent action, which must include the abandonment of fossil fuels. Health professionals and their organisations must support and learn from the schoolchildren’s action, finding more effective ways to help people and politicians understand that climate change is by far the biggest threat human health has ever faced.

The story of the student protests is a good example of cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead’s well known quote: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens …

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