Ever since my parents dragged me along to a screening of An Inconvenient Truth in Grade 6, I have been waiting for the world to take action on climate change. More than a decade later, after what feels like a lifetime of inaction from world leaders, the kids are finally taking action for themselves. Today, hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren from more than 100 countries are expected to leave their classrooms as part of a global climate strike.
The global political response to climate change has been a series of disappointments. The world has been repeatedly warned that this is an urgent global issue. The Paris Agreement, a United Nations initiative to limit global temperature increases, has seen all major industrialised countries failing to meet their pledges. In 2017, the Trump administration drew ire from major figures around the globe when it announced its intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. In even more disheartening news, findings presented to the UN Environment Assembly this month indicate that sharp temperature rises in the Arctic are now inevitable, even if the aims of the Paris agreement are met. For years, world leaders have kept their eyes shut to the destructive reality of climate change. Today, kids around the world are striking to wake them up.
— School Strike 4 Climate (@StrikeClimate) March 15, 2019
The steps in front of Melbourne’s Old Treasury Building this morning were clamouring with students waving signs and chanting slogans as part of the climate strike. The crowd has been described on Twitter as ‘impossible to capture’, swelling into the streets of the CBD. Similar scenes have been captured in Sydney, Adelaide, Hobart and Canberra, and cities across the globe.
The climate strikes were started last year by a lone Swedish student, Greta Thunberg, a fifteen year old girl who sat on the steps of Parliament House every Friday. In a grave speech to the 2019 World Economic Forum, she told global leaders
“I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.”
The climate strike has drawn criticism from various Australian politicians, including Education Minister Christopher Pyne. Pyne told Nine News today:
“Usually strikes are when employees withdraw their labour from an employee so I’m not sure why the students are withdrawing themselves from school. It only damages their education.”
This sign from a Melbourne protestor serves as a fairly succinct response:
“MY ATAR WON’T MEAN SH*T IF WE’RE UNDERWATER”
More creative signage at the Melbourne #climatestrike “It’s disappointing that we aren’t supporting as a nation the right to protest of our young people. We need a voice and we need action now” – Bella, 16 @naamanzhou pic.twitter.com/nv0kKl7yMN
— Lisa Cox (@_LisaMCox) March 15, 2019
Today’s student climate strike is an inspiring act of defiance against a decades-long culture of climate change denial. Not only do these kids have to grapple with the reality that their future has been forfeited by their parents’ generation, they are also subject to gaslighting by politicians and conservative commentators.
In an interview with 14 year old Ambrose Hayes today, radio broadcaster Steve Price asked the student activist if he had been ‘conned by teachers’. Talking over the teen’s responses, Price dismissed his concerns, claiming, ‘there’s nothing wrong with the Great Barrier Reef” and suggesting carbon emissions are ‘not pollution’. Price’s statements directly contradict the research of environmental experts, who assert that climate change has killed almost half the coral in the Great Barrier Reef, and that carbon dioxide emissions are polluting the atmosphere.
— Michael McGowan (@mmcgowan) March 15, 2019
Prime Minister Scott Morrison responded to the climate strike with a similarly tone deaf statement:
“What we want is more learning in schools and less activism in schools.”
Clearly the Prime Minister could do with some schooling from the kids: nothing is more important than the future of the planet we live on. As someone who’ll likely be dead before the brunt of climate change hits, maybe he can afford to dismiss it. Young people don’t have that luxury.
Climate change will affect all of us. Here at Speaker TV, we stand with the bold young role models at today’s climate strike. We urge Australia’s politicians to wake up, and take action.
Sign a petition for climate change action in Australia here.
Support the Australian Youth Climate Coalition here.