Marching For Their Future; The Children Who Are Taking Climate Change Into Their Own Hands
Grow Talk by Sofy Robertson
“It’s our future.” This was the placard held by an Australian child on November 30th. He stood, surrounded by other children and young people who had chosen not to go to school that day. Instead, he and thousands of fellow students had decided to stage a walk out in protest against government inaction on climate change.
Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth were just some of the locations where students marched with their parents, bearing banners and placards and chanting in protest of the continued use of fossil fuels.
Ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference COP24, thousands of students across Australia decided it was time to make their views clear, sparking a social media frenzy.
A video Tweeted from the Australian news channel SBS, which has received over 97 000 views and 1600 retweets, shows the overwhelming action of young people across Australia. Students of all ages and backgrounds took to the stages set up in numerous cities and towns to have their views heard. 11-year-old Lucie Atkin Bolt addressed the crowd gathered at her local march, speaking confidently and clearly into the microphone:
“When kids make a mess, adults tell us to clean it up. That’s fair. But when leaders of our country make a mess, like they’re doing right now about the environment, they leave it for us to clean it up. That’s nowhere near fair.”
Australia’s Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has criticised the protests, saying
“We don’t support our schools being turned into parliaments. What we want is more learning in schools and less activism in schools.” (NewsHub)
Jean Hinchcliffe, a 14-year-old student who attended the walk out in Sydney, responded powerfully by saying:
“This activism is where we are learning and yeah, it should be dealt with outside of school but it’s not being dealt with outside of school and that’s why we’re here and that’s why we’re striking!”
Parents too backed their children’s right to protest. Maria, a 39-year-old mother from Sydney accompanied her 9-year-old son to the protest and said:
“This is as good an education as being in a classroom… I think this is a good way for kids to learn to be involved, to be active and to take some action for something that affects them directly.” (Reuters)
Australia is one of the largest carbon emitters per capita, in part because of its reliance on coal-fired power plants. Following the IPCC report on climate change, the projections for our planet’s future has shocked many into taking action through protest.
Harriet O’Shea and Milou Albrecht, both fourteen, were inspired to take action after hearing of a one-woman protest being conducted by a Swedish teenager. They made the choice that speaking out for climate action was worth missing a day of education. Harriet explained:
“We have tried so many other ways; we’ve tried just asking, we’ve tried telling them, and so we really just need to show them now. We’re just going to keep pushing and keep trying because we love the natural world.” (Newshub)
For those in the youngest generation, there is no doubt that they will be most affected by the future that our government’s control. With none of the students who took part being of legal voting age, their voice in the future of their country, of their planet, is effectively quelled. There is no doubt in my mind, or in the mind of the majority of others, that children should be in school. However, these students have shown their strength in taking a stand for their future, the future that they are taught in schools, the future that cannot be a reality without drastic change.
We have seen for ourselves the growing movements of discontent; of everyday people coming together and inspiring a movement of change for the better. Extinction Rebellion, the global movement applying pressure to government organisations, has grown from 10 000 people to 46 000 in just over a month. And that’s just its Facebook followers. This protest, inspired by the actions of one Swedish school girl, has swelled to thousands of children demanding action to ensure that their lives, and the lives that will follow, will not be irreparably damaged by the fate that is intertwined with our planet’s.
Is blocking roads the way for this to happen? Is skipping school the way forward? These are questions dissected in the media, and by the individual after viewing news reports on protests such as these. Is there a right way to protest; is there a right way to call attention to the issues that affect each and every one of us? As a journalist, I cannot pretend to hold these answers. As a human, I am left in the same position. But I do have to place myself firmly in agreement with one of the students who spoke out in Australia:
“I am here because we are all from nature and we should be taking care of it.”