A global student climate movement and questions for the future
Canberra was one of the first cities to participate in the School Strike 4 Climate March, a call for global action which, according to organisers, summoned hundreds of thousands of students from over a hundred cities across the world.
Around 2000 students joined the Canberra protest.
The movement, inspired by the young climate activist Greta Thurnberg, was able to rally a few thousand protestors in the ACT on March 15.
A number of children from different ages and backgrounds took over the stage at Garema Place, where they responded to political comments on the demonstration and shared their concerns through speeches, chants, poems and music.
“We will stop striking when politicians stop receiving funding from the fossil fuel lobbies and act on climate change, and will continue behaving as adults until you stop acting like children. We are here because we are educated and see the damage done by climate change” claimed the young protestors.
“This is also education, we are learning about democracy and our right to protest”, they replied to the questioning of their movement. The children also demanded specific political action, outlining that they wanted to see a 100% renewable Australia during their lifetimes along with the halting of Adani and other fossil fuel export operations.
Some of the protestors shared their views on why they decided to become part of the March. 16-year-old Hellen claimed, “I’m here because I want politicians to do something, to stop talking about it and actually do something”.
Anne, 17, added that the magnitude of the issue should make it more prominent in the media and public sphere.
When asked what made her join the protest, 12 year old Zary responded, “I’m really concerned about bushfires, droughts and floods, and I really wanted to try and make a difference here.”
Eva and her husband Danny, both in their early 40’s, brought their 5-year-old son along. “We wanted to show our support to the kids taking action against climate change, it’s one of the most important issues facing the world today. It’s impressive to see children making a stand while the government isn’t taking any leadership, we really need to see some action. These kids want a future and we want one for our child.”
Some political animals joined in for the action.
The march was also supported by older generations and long-time climate activists. David Rosetta, one of the first renewable energy regulators of our country with more than 30 years of experience in the field, said that action against climate change was the most important issue.
“I am delighted to see young people accurately pinpointing where environmental policy should be heading in terms of renewables and cutting carbon emissions”, he said.
Demonstrations across Australia and the world have proven that there is real traction and concern for climate action among younger generations. In particular, regarding the trends of global warming and environmental destruction, and towards what they perceive as political inaction on these issues.
Although it was an impressive effort that managed to rally hundreds of thousands across the planet and draw the headlines for the day, it is yet to be seen whether broader society will feel compelled by this movement and bring the children’s claims into immediate campaign trails and the ballot box.
More importantly, it is unlikely that current legislators will be moved into voluntarily investing political capital towards emission and global warming targets solely based on these actions and the scientific warnings that back them. Supranational bodies claim we are already set to miss our short-term international agreements on the matter.
We must wait and see if these students’ motivation on climate action permeates towards other segments of society, and whether these newborn protest movements will transfer into political platforms and specific policy in years to come.
On the longer run, it will be a matter of future sociological analysis to see if these strong convictions have enduringly marked younger generations, and if they are willing to back these principles with their votes and political transformation. That is, if they are granted enough time.