Thousands of schoolchildren and young adults across the UK took part in a #YouthStrike4Climate today in at least 60 towns and cities from the far south west in Cornwall, to the far north in Scotland and over in Northern Ireland too. Thousands of young protesters also gathered in Parliament Square in London, too.
Across the UK, from Brigthton, Bristol to Birmingham, in their thousands they walked out of schools, colleges and Universities to demand urgent action now to stop the climate crisis.
One young protester in Parliament Square said: “All you hear is Brexit, Brexit, Brexit…this is our planet, we want to save it, the politicians don’t care.” Others shouted “This is what democracy looks like,” and “Save our planet”, When do we want it now” as well as “system change, not climate change.”
Just have a listen to these three girls from Camden, aged 11 and 12, on strike today for #YouthStrike4Climate
— Rachael Venables (@rachaelvenables) February 15, 2019
The school strike movement has been inspired by Greta Thunberg, the 16 year old Swedish activist, who started striking on Firdays last year. Her actions have led to a growing global youth movement, where tens of thousands of schoolkids protest each week across the globe.
And this week it was the turn of children and young adults in the UK.
In a statement, the UK Student Climate Network said: We are choosing to rise up and take direct action where older generations have failed. We are already facing devastating and irreversible impacts around the world. This is our final chance to fight for our futures, and our ages will not be what stop us.”
The British youngsters are demanding four things from the UK Government:
- The government declare a climate emergency and prioritise the protection of life on Earth, taking active steps to achieve climate justice.
- The national curriculum is reformed to address the ecological crisis as an educational priority.
- The government communicate the severity of the ecological crisis and the necessity to act now to the general public.
- The government recognise that young people have the biggest stake in our future, by incorporating youth views into policy making and bringing the voting age down to 16.
One of those protesting was fourteen year old, Nadia Barton, who says that “climate change will impact on my life and that of my children”. So she’s taking action now.
Another person on a march was Rosie Smart-Knight, a 17-year-old student from Cornwall. “I’m not striking because I know how to tackle climate change, I’m striking because I want the people with the power to do something to start addressing it, ” they said. “They need to listen to the scientists who have been warning us about climate change for years – and who understand how best to solve this mess.”
In Bristol Zoe Bonnett, 14 was on strike too. In a letter to her headteacher she said: I strongly believe that far from enough is being done to combat the emergency that we are facing, and system change is needed. The climate crisis should be top of everyone’s agenda, especially the government’s, because it is the biggest threat that the human race faces today.
Another, Imogen Taylor, 15, said: “We’re fulfilling the role of the government right now. We’re acting like adults and they’re acting like children. The only way we can make our futures brighter is by standing together.”
Meanwhile in Scotland, Holly Gillibrand, was protesting too with her fellow pupils near Fort William. For the last five Firdays, Holly has stood outside school inspired by Greta: “I feel very angry, very scared and I see that they [political leaders] are not taking climate change seriously. It is an urgent crisis that needs to be addressed.”
The protesters have been backed by some leading figures. Christiana Figueres, the former UN climate chief, who says it is “time to heed the deeply moving voice of youth”. She added: “It is a sign that we are failing in our responsibility to protect them from the worsening impacts of climate change,” she said.
They were joined by Green MP, Caroline Lucas, who said: “Our children recognise that they are living through a climate emergency. They are striking today because they know we cannot carry on as normal.”
Lucas adds: “So now it’s time for the political system to listen to young people. They will live longest with the consequences of decisions made now, so they must help guide the way forward.”
And in Earlier in the week, over 200 academics leant their support too: The academics wrote that the children: “have every right to be angry about the future that we shall bequeath to them, if proportionate and urgent action is not taken. We are inspired that our children, spurred on by the noble actions of Greta Thunberg and many other striking students all around the world, are making their voices heard.”
In response, British Prime Minister, Theresa May, criticised those missing school for “increasing teachers’ workloads and wasting lesson time”.
This drew a sharp rebuke from Greta on Twitter: “British PM says that the children on school strike are “wasting lesson time”. That may well be the case. But then again, political leaders have wasted 30 yrs of inaction. And that is slightly worse.’
British PM says that the children on school strike are “wasting lesson time”. That may well be the case. But then again, political leaders have wasted 30 yrs of inaction. And
that is slightly worse.#schoolstrike4climate #FridaysForFuture #ClimateStrike https://t.co/PoSCXin3VN
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) February 15, 2019
Meanwhile, the kids are also kicking back against the fossil fuel industry in the US. As the Hill reported: “A group of kids and young adults suing the federal government over climate change is asking a court to block various approvals for fossil fuel development on federal land and offshore.”
In a motion filed this month, the litigants stated: “The record shows that, for decades, defendants have knowingly and affirmatively placed plaintiffs in peril of present and worsening climate change-induced harms, with shocking, deliberate indifference to the known and obvious dangers in advancing a fossil fuel-based energy system.”
So on both sides of the pond, politicians stand accused of failing the next generation. They had better respond in a way commensurate to the urgent problem soon.