One ordinary Monday afternoon on March 11, stuck in Copywriting class for three hours, once again I learned nothing new and got bored. And what do bored students do? They scroll through their phones. I scrolled through mine that day -and changed things up.

I flicked through some news to find an article about Greta Thunberg by The Guardian. I think we all know by now who Greta is – and those images of her in two short braids and a yellow raincoat, sitting on the concrete floor with her black and white Skolstrejk för klimatet (School Strike for the Climate) sign.

Just as Greta never expected things to happen the way they did after she began sitting in front of the Swedish parliament, I didn’t realize what would follow. Upon reading the article anguish washed over me, and I could not have related to anyone more.

I know what it’s like to care so much for such a cause -for some three depressing, stressful and hopeless years, I had gone through that weight all by myself. Sitting alone in my bedroom, most nights I’d be staring at the blinking cursor on my laptop screen, thinking hard, struggling to figure out what I could do for our climate crisis. Some nights I’d come up with something to write about, but other nights I’d curl up in a ball on my bed and let the tears roll down my cheeks, convinced that no one really cares about our dying planet – but also unable to stop caring about it myself.

As a writer and environmental activist in Bangkok, I know what it’s like to feel so powerless in such a hopeless place, so alone in such a crowded world. Greta did too, but the 16-year-old has taken advantage of her distress and turned it around. After reading the article, 21-year-old me was inspired.

Creating a Facebook event and encouraging people to skip school and work is easy, I can do it with barely any effort. So I did it. In an hour, “School Strike for Climate Change, Bangkok” was set up for March 15, the same day as 2,000 other strikes in 125 countries. I invited all the 995 people on my Facebook friends list, waited, and hoped for the best. My job was done – or so I thought.

The next morning, some 100 people clicked ‘Interested’, a few clicked ‘Going’, and few others shared the event. The day after, about 200 people were ‘Interested’. The day after that, it was 300. Messages from strangers started to roll into my inbox asking what we were doing, where we were meeting, and when we were starting. Uh…I replied. I don’t know.
People felt they finally had the chance to protect the environment, but they needed a leader, and I accidentally became one. So I made some signs, gave some directions on Facebook, and asked someone for a megaphone. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I did it anyway.
On March 15, about 50 people showed up. Not a lot compared to many other strikes around the world, but a lot more than I had expected. I still didn’t quite know what I was doing, but as soon as I held the megaphone, I just talked – and people listened. People driving their cars, walking on the street, sitting in restaurants, standing on the bridge, waiting for the bus. Hundreds of them stopped and listened.

I held another march on Saturday for people who couldn’t make it on Friday. People wanted more, and I just had to give it to them. Once again, I just talked, and people listened. Even politicians did – at least those out campaigning for the election nearby. All I had to do to make them listen was speak up, and loud.

My climate strike was a huge success for me: about 500 people were ‘Interested’ in the event and about 100 in total came to join me. Only two of them were friends I had invited. The rest were strangers, who, perhaps, were concerned citizens just like me. Perhaps they too were having concerns in their own homes and in their own heads, until one day, they stumbled upon my Facebook event and thought: Hey, someone’s doing something.I should too.

Many activists start out as lonely people. At first, we ponder in our heads what change we could bring about each day. We mull over what we can’t do, often more than we acknowledge what we can do. We keep that all to ourselves and can’t help but believe we are alone. Truth is, we’re not.
It just takes one of us, one like Greta, to turn her worries into opportunities. We all can be the one. It will take just one of us to stand up and act. Then, the rest of us will too. No one is alone in this.
Nanticha Ocharoenchai, Greenpeace activist, a student at Chulalongkorn University

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