“What do we want? CLIMATE JUSTICE! When do we want it? NOW!… Now can I get back to class?”
Micah Geiringer and Ollie Langridge (read the article here) are two of an increasing number of people willing to inconvenience themselves and their own lives, in order to call for action on climate change. However, these school students faced personal consequences for their actions, perhaps most importantly, affecting their own education by missing up to 100 days of school. While Michael claims he doesn’t have any regrets, instead choosing to focus on the bigger picture of what his future will hold, is this a choice we should be promoting for our students, our leaders of tomorrow? For me, the answer is a Big. Fat. YES.
There is a lot to be learnt during protests, involving education on the current climate we are living in, how we are affecting it, and what our future looks like if we keep going at this rate. Furthermore, there is a lot to learn about who we are affecting, the different groups and individuals who will be impacted by our careless actions. For instance, in a first-world country such as NZ, it is important to recognise that our actions will firstly impact citizens in third-world countries. While many of us would claim to care deeply about groups of people living in third-world countries known to face extreme poverty, are we aware that when we are wasteful with resources, support the meat & dairy industry, or use uneconomical amounts of fuel, we are directly making their lives more challenging. This happens as our emissions increase the temperature of their climates, our rubbish increases the amount of waste that will be dumped in their surrounding oceans. Are we aware that these actions are raising the water levels of the ocean, ultimately drowning the homes of people living on small islands? Are we aware that after this happens to them, it will happen to us? I don’t think we are, and until school is educating students of these issues, it is important this information is found elsewhere.
However, beyond just educating ourselves, students attending protests drives home the point to our leaders that unless serious changes are implemented, there will be unimaginable consequences for their replacements – the children of today. We are directly showing them how urgent this issue is and how seriously we take it. By protesting, students are not looking to skip school, they are taking actions that will help create a better future for everyone. Ultimately, they are establishing a future that they will be able to use their education in.
The interesting thing about protesting for the environment and for climate justice is that it is both selfless and selfish at the same time. While students are protesting for a better future for themselves, they are also protesting for a better future for every single human on earth. Every single one! People are often unaware that climate change will ultimately impact all of us negatively: there is nothing beneficial about living in a world in which we cannot breathe the fresh air, in which we cannot swim in the ocean, in which we cannot survive as a species. Unlike many other protest movements, there is not a single group who will be negatively impacted by the changes being demanded.
Ultimately, we will all benefit from climate justice. Likewise, we will all be negatively impacted if changes are not made. So yes, this issue is serious and yes it is urgent and yes it must be listened to – ASAP. If the adults leading and living in our world will not make the necessary changes for our future, then us students must make them ourselves.
Of course education is important, but we must first look after the world that we are educated in. So stop being wasteful and start being resourceful, stop letting people tell you this isn’t an issue and start educating them on its urgency, and most importantly – get out into the streets and demand change. It’s now or never, kids!