Students in more than 40 towns and cities across the UK have today (15th Feb) walked out of school to protest and fight against climate change. The ‘YouthStrike4Climate’ saw thousands of young people gather across the country to spread the message that more action needs to be taken on environmental issues and that that action needs to be taken quickly.
In London, protesters gathered at Parliament Square in Westminster with placards in hand and calls to “save our planet.”
The protests were inspired by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old from Sweden who has made headlines for her action against climate change.
A Greta Thunberg inspired placard at a protest in Berlin.
In August 2018, Greta decided she would stop going to school on Fridays in order to picket outside the Swedish parliament. Her mission was to pressure the Swedish Government to pass legislation that would reduce carbon emissions in line with the Paris Agreement.
We spoke with some of the young people inspired by Greta who gathered in the capital today, and here are the messages they want you to hear…
Politicians Are ‘Lazy On Climate Change’
Youth Strike 4 Climate Protesters at Parliament Square, London. Credit: Ollie Cole/@ProducerOllie
“I’m here because the government do not seem to see climate change as an urgent matter and we need to change their minds,” said Olly from Brixton, “We’re doing something better than being in school. The whole point of school is to learn to make a positive difference and that’s what we’re doing today, we may be out of school but we’re making a difference and making our voices heard instead.”
Joining Olly was her friend Esme, who was calling for politicians to “stop sticking their heads in the sand on this and actually take action.”
“They’re lazy on climate change,” she continued. According to the UK Student Climate Network, there are four key points that protesters are keen to get across during their day of demonstration. It’s hoped that the government will declare a ‘climate emergency’ and inform the public about the seriousness of the situation.
Additionally, the network is calling for reform of the national curriculum to include ‘the ecological crisis’, and for a reduction in the voting age to 16. Friday’s action is part of a much wider global movement, known as Schools 4 Climate Action.
Olly and Esme from Brixton urged the government to act quickly. Credit: Ollie Cole/@ProducerOllie
Year 12 student Isabelle had taken the day off of school in order to show how important it is “that young people have a say in what goes on,” and added that “decisions are being made by those with power and money that aren’t in the best interests of saving us and saving our planet.”
Her fellow student Jasper, also in year 12, was heartened by the size of the turnout at Parliament Square and across the UK.
He told us: “It shows that there’s big support from young people to change this. It shows that the people who are the future want to change the future and support this cause.”
Climate change is the greatest threat that we all face but it is the school kids of today whose futures are most on the line.
They are right to feel let down by the generation before them and it’s inspiring to see them making their voice heard today. #SchoolStrike4Climate
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) February 15, 2019
Protesting with them was Imka, who mentioned that she was often left feeling without any say or power politically. The year ten pupil said that seeing the number of people taking part in the demonstration showed that together “we can make a difference,” and “hopefully make a change to our planet.”
Campaigning On This Issue A “Bigger Priority” Than One Day Of School
“Save Our Planet” was the call from Freya and Leyla. Credit: Ollie Cole/@ProducerOllie
Ahead of the day of strike action by students, the education secretary warned that skipping class would not help the environment but instead add to teacher workload.
Damian Hinds said he wanted young people to be engaged in the key issues affecting them, but stressed that missing class “won’t do a thing to help the environment,” and creates “extra work for teachers.”
His reservations were not shared by those making their voices heard in London, however. Freya had taken the day off from her year nine classes “to make sure that the government is aware of our passion for this issue and hopefully do something about it.”
She added: “We go to school every day, but it’s not every day that you get the opportunity to be heard politically. Missing one day of school to protest on something which is so important is a much bigger priority when we’re so often ignored.”
‘We’re Going To Hold Them Accountable’
“Peel The Burn” – Tess and Emily grab a selfie at the Youth Strike 4 Climate. Credit: Ollie Cole/@ProducerOllie
As well as placards and banners, many young people went further to wear their cause on their sleeve and donned fancy dress. Dressed as bananas were 17-year-old Tess and 16-year-old Emily.
“We want the government to start taking action and deal with climate change as the crisis that it is. We’re so sick of hearing about everything else but the climate. There are so many promises on this that politicians are making but not fulfilling,” Tess told RightsInfo.
“We hope that the government sees that young people aren’t going to just shut up about this issue. We’re going to hold them accountable for every promise they make, and they need to start fulfilling them, do better, and realise that this is serious and we’re serious about it.”
This is most hopeful thing that's happened in years.
Exciting thing is positive policies like #GreenNewDeal are taking off too.
— Caroline Lucas (@CarolineLucas) February 15, 2019
Emily stressed that climate change was not an issue that could be ignored. “It’s not a sideline issue only for people with certain interests, it concerns every single person.”
She continued: “It’s young people who feel most vulnerable. We don’t want to see our future destroyed, we have to show globally that we’re not going to stand for it.”