Earlier today, the naturalist Sir David Attenborough addressed the UN climate conference in Poland, saying: “Right now, we are facing a man-made disaster of global scale. Our greatest threat in thousands of years. Climate change.”
“If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon,” he added. The world famous TV presenter continued: “The world’s people have spoken. Their message is clear. Time is running out. They want you, the decision-makers, to act now”.
And nowhere have those voices been louder in the last few days than from the young from Canada to Australia and Sweden.
Last Friday, thousands of children missed school as part of the ‘Strike 4 Climate Action‘, which organised marches in every city in Australia. The idea started with two fourteen year olds, Milou Albrect and Harriet O’Shea Carre, from the state of Victoria. Harriet said: “The climate change emergency is something we have been thinking about for a long time.”
Another 14 year old, Jean Hinchcliffe, organised the march one in Sydney: She said “Everyone, all young people, we can see that climate change is a real issue and we’re completely sick of politicians’ inaction.”
As I blogged about last week, the kids in Australia were incensed when, warned about the strike their Prime Minister, Scott Morrison told Parliament that he wants “more learning in schools” and “less activism.”
Adding fuel to the fire, the country’s Resources Minister, Matt Canavan, then added “The best thing you learn about going to a protest is how to join the dole [welfare] queue. Because that’s what your future life will look like,”
Many signs on Friday’s march criticised the inaction of the elder generation and politicians. “I’ve seen smarter cabinets at Ikea,” said one. “If you were smart we would be in school” or “why should we be in school if you won’t listen to the educated” and “Only dinosaurs deny climate change”.
Another person taking part was “Ruby the climate kid” who recorded a message on Facebook saying the protest was a “message to Parliament to say we are not happy with their decisions on taking action on climate change. In fact they are doing the reverse.”
Australian kids were not the only ones taking action on Friday. In Canada, many young people occupied the offices of members of Parliament in Vancouver, Edmonton, Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax and demanded increased action on climate change. They had three main asks:
- Transition to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030, and create one million climate jobs in the process;
- Meaningfully implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
- Keep fossil fuels in the ground and align the federal climate plan with the 1.5 degree threshold
Carla Massaro, a 24-year-old activist living on unceded kanien’kehá:ka territory in Montreal said: “We are the ones who will pay the greatest price from climate change … We demand that our government develop a clear and ambitious plan to create one million climate jobs by 2030. It is our futures that are at risk.”
Many Australian and Canadian students have been inspired and encouraged by Swedish student Greta Thunberg, a 15-year-old who has launched a similar climate protest movement in her country. Her speech will not get as many headlines as Attenborough’s, but it is equally as powerful. She said to the UN leader António Guterres at the UN conference in Katowice:
“Some people say that I should be in school instead. Some people say that I should study to become a climate scientist so that I can ‘solve the climate crisis’. But the climate crisis has already been solved. We already have all the facts and solutions.”
She added: “Why should I be studying for a future that soon may be no more, when no one is doing anything to save that future? And what is the point of learning facts when the most important facts clearly means nothing to our society?”
Thunberg continued: “Today we use 100 million barrels of oil every single day. There are no politics to change that. There are no rules to keep that oil in the ground. So we can’t save the world by playing by the rules. Because the rules have to be changed.”
She concluded by saying that “since our leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago.”