Student climate strikes across the country

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Thousands of students across the country took a stand for the environment on Friday, participating in climate change protests in more than 20 locations.

The event was organized by groups like Toitū Te Tiriti, the Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa, and School Strike 4 Climate, with a goal to draw attention to the urgent need for climate action and policy changes.

The young protesters are asking for several things: to keep the ban on oil and gas exploration, to respect Te Tiriti o Waitangi, to end fast-track consenting legislation that could harm the environment, to protect New Zealand’s oceans and conservation lands, to include climate education for everyone, and to lower the voting age to 16. They also called for action related to “freeing Palestine” and expelling the Israeli ambassador from New Zealand.

In Auckland, around 350 people gathered to march and make music with reimagined songs by bands like AC/DC and Queen, turning them into protest anthems. They also showed their commitment to the environment by picking up litter along their march route, which stretched for 2.5 kilometers from Dove Myer Park to Albert Park.

Some protesters expressed their disappointment with the government’s approach to environmental issues, accusing it of prioritizing profits and projects over the planet’s health. They voiced concerns about the future impacts of climate change and criticized the government for not doing enough to address the crisis.

Amidst the protests, Auckland Transport issued warnings about potential delays due to the marches, advising commuters to expect “rolling closures” and possible delays to bus services.

The protests sparked a debate about the role of education and activism, with Associate Education Minister David Seymour suggesting that students should focus on learning in school rather than protesting during school hours. He suggested alternative times for such activities, like during a recent teacher-only day or the upcoming school holidays.

However, Green Party co-leader Chlöe Swarbrick defended the students’ actions, arguing that the issues they are protesting about extend beyond the classroom. She praised the young activists for their passion for a healthier planet and their understanding of the need for systemic change to address both social and environmental injustices.

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