With the School Strike for Climate Change just around the corner, Emily Wind explores what the day is about and how you can get involved.
This Friday on March 15th, students from over 80 countries will join together in protest of climate change in a movement started by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. There are strikes planned in over 1000 locations around the world, including Newcastle, with people of all ages invited to join in.
The #FridaysForFuture movement was started last August by then-15-year-old Greta. She was growing frustrated by politician’s indifference towards her countries record heat, and decided to strike from school. She protested outside the Swedish Parliament every day for almost three weeks, and every Friday following that.
Greta’s solo protest soon turned into a global movement. Strikes began occurring all over the world, with The Guardian reporting that more than 20,000 students from at least 270 towns and cities have now joined her battle. This includes the thousands of Australian students who went on strike during school hours in November with three demands for our politicians:
- Stop the Adani coal mine.
- No new coal or gas.
- 100% renewable energy by 2030.
This year the worldwide student strike movement has coordinated their protests to occur on the same day, with students hoping to make their voices louder than ever. Young people, in particular, understand that it’s no longer a case of whether you believe in climate change or not – it is undeniable that it exists and is one of, if not the biggest, crises facing the planet right now.
The Newcastle strike will begin in Civic Park at 12pm this Friday and will see everyone march to the office of our federal MP Sharon Claydon. There are more than 40 other locations in Australia going on strike, from Perth to the Whitsundays. So, it is easy enough to get involved.
Australian students have been particularly spurred on in their protest efforts by the reaction of politicians to their last strike.
While Greens MP Adam Bandt labelled the students as “brave and courageous”, Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged children to stay in class and called for “less activism in schools.” Resource Minister Matt Canavan also told 2GB radio that “the best thing you’ll learn from going to a protest is how to join the dole queue”, and that kids should stay in school and learn to drill for oil and gas. These outdated responses emphasise the need for the protest, on both a national and local scale.
Time Magazine reports that the extreme conditions we are currently facing count as “the most severe in [our] modern history.” Farmers livelihoods are particularly at stake, with drought affecting 49% of the east coast, and one-third of dairy farmers projected to lose money this year.
A study by the Australian National University claims that the Federal Government exaggerated the amount of water being returned to the complex river system of the Murray-Darling Basin. The lack of water returning to the basin, due to both the drought and over-extraction, has led to catastrophic results including three mass fish deaths at Menindee lakes. Up to one million native fish were killed in the three events, and there are fears a fourth mass death may take place.
Neither of our two major parties have a strong anti-Adani stance, with the construction of the mega-coal mine in Queensland set to go ahead. If built, the coal mine will suck “at least 270 billion litres of groundwater over the life of the mine”, “dump mine polluted wastewater into the Carmichael River”, “threaten ancient springs and 160 wetlands that provide permanent water during drought” and more, according to the Stop Adani website.
More locally, a deal has just been signed to develop two 1000 megawatt coal-fired power stations near Kurri Kurri, roughly 30 minutes from Newcastle.
Coal mining is continuously prioritised over the environment and the needs of farmers. While speaking to Waleed Aly on the project Nationals leader Michael McCormack was unable to list even one policy area where his party sided with the interests of farmers over the interests of miners.
NSW and WA are currently the only states without a renewable energy target. The Climate Council claims that only 6% of NSW’s electricity is sourced from wind and solar systems.
As the New York Times reported last October, a United Nation’s scientific panel found that if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at the current rate, the atmosphere will warm up by as much as 1.5 degrees Celsius, leading to a crisis as early as 2040.
So, it’s time to make our voices heard, whether it be at the state and federal voting poll’s this year or at protests, like the ones happening this March around the globe. As Greta told CNN last year, “we have to understand the emergency of the situation. Our leadership has failed us. Young people must hold older generations accountable for the mess they have created. We need to get angry, and transform that anger into action.”
Feature Image: The Climate Reality Project, via unsplash.com