You can thank Greta Thunberg for this one.
Collins Dictionaries released their 2019 list of words that have seen increased usage, and “climate strike” topped the list. They say it “embodies a positive response to a grave crisis,” referring to climate change.
The word has seen a 100-fold increase in Collins’ English database this year over last, the dictionary says.
The first climate strike took place in late November 2015 while world leaders were meeting in Paris for the United Nations Climate Change Conference.
A group called Global Climate March helped co-ordinate the event with a message of keeping fossil fuels in the ground while transitioning fully to renewable energy by 2050. They estimated that more than 785,000 people marched in at least 2,300 events in over 175 countries around the world.
Since then, the word has only grown in popularity.
Thunberg, the now-infamous climate activist, began appearing outside the Swedish parliament in August 2018, demanding action on climate change. She held a sign that translated into English said: School strike for the climate.
The year that followed would be filled with momentous activism. Thunberg took a two-week journey in a sailboat across the Atlantic Ocean to New York. She spoke at the UN Climate Action Summit on Sept. 23, 2019, challenging world leaders to listen to scientists by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
“How dare you?” Thunberg asked world leaders at the UN Climate Action Summit, unabashedly pointing out their ignorance to a global climate crisis.
“People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction. And all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”
Collins defines “climate strike” as a “form of protest in which people absent themselves from education or work in order to join demonstrations demanding action to counter climate change.”
The list included other terms that show climate action has been at the forefront of peoples’ minds this year. One of those terms is “rewilding” — the process of taking an area of land and reverting it back to its natural, wild state. Another term is “hopepunk,” a term coined by sci-fi author Alexandra Rowland in 2017.
Rowland described the term as referring to people “demanding a better, kinder world, and truly believing that we can get there if we care about each other as hard as we possibly can.”
Thunberg inspired thousands of people to leave their jobs and schools and demand action from their government, in every city she stopped in. She consistently declines awards.
“It is a huge honour, but the climate movement doesn’t need anymore awards,” she said on Instagram. “What we need is for our politicians and the people in power start to listen to the current, best available science.”
With more people using the “climate strike” than ever, Thunberg might have proof of the impact that could be better than any award — it’s knowing that people are starting to talk about the climate crisis, and that people might finally be listening.