Friday, 15 February 2019

School Strike for Climate Action UK > Friday 15th February > reports from Parliament Square and beyond

Today, school children are demonstrating up and down the county:
Futures Forum: School Strike for Climate Action UK > Friday 15th February > happening in Devon

One of their number explains in the Guardian this morning: 

I am taking part in the school climate strike. It’s the only power I have

Today, thousands of students like me will leave the classroom – and make those in charge listen to us on climate change

Rosie Smart-Knight
Friday 15 February

‘My generation stands to lose the most from catastrophic climate change, yet we’re excluded from the most serious conversations.’ A protester on a school climate strike march in Sydney, Australia. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

Today, Friday 15 February, thousands of students from schools, colleges, and universities all around the UK will be going on strike, and I’m one of them. I’m taking part in the Youth Strike 4 Climate movement because I want to make a difference. I want my generation’s voice to be heard and listened to. We stand to lose the most from catastrophic climate change, yet we’re the ones who’ve been excluded from the most serious conversations.

I don’t believe that previous generations wanted to create a world that faces such catastrophe, but when confronted with the stark reality, many have pushed it to one side because it doesn’t seem an immediate threat. We can’t run down the clock on this issue. Twelve years – the amount of time climate scientists have given us to keep global warming in check – seems like a long time to me: it’s two-thirds of my life. But it’s no time at all to instigate the sort of radical change that we need. It scares me to think that my life could be defined so rigidly from so early on.

In the space of 12 years, we could have three separate governments, each with their own agendas. This issue cannot be one that is used for popularity contests, it’s one that requires immediate, unified and urgent action. Politicians are gambling with the future of all known life.

I’m often asked if I think my actions will make a difference. How can students skipping school change anything except our grades? Only time will tell, but what I do know is that the nation is suddenly talking about climate change again, and that’s because of our actions. Greta Thunberg’s individual action has shown we can get noticed, and conversations are starting. Imagine how much attention the climate crisis will get when thousands of us demand our right to a healthy planet and a future to look forward to.

FacebookTwitterPinterest ‘Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg’s individual action has shown we can get noticed – and conversations are starting.’ Photograph: Tt News Agency/Reuters

I’m not striking because I know how to tackle climate change, I’m striking because I want the people with the power to do something to start addressing it. They need to listen to the scientists who have been warning us about climate change for years – and who understand how best to solve this mess. We’ve been called truants and snowflakes, but if we were really involved in this because we wanted a day off school, there are much easier ways to go about it. Standing in the cold, demanding that those in power take our futures seriously isn’t something we’re glad we have to do. I wish that the burden didn’t fall on any of our shoulders. We are being asked to write our epitaphs before most of us are even able to vote, but I refuse to be passive in the face of catastrophe.

Several of my friends and classmates are striking with me, and many who aren’t are supportive. We are aware that we will be skipping lessons for something that may not make a big difference – and we’re all conscious of how precious our education is. It’s only due to the severity of the issue that we are jeopardising it.

My college has been less than supportive, as it believes that there are better ways to make a difference than encouraging students to participate. I sent a college-wide email to let people know what I was doing and how they could get involved. I was quickly told by a staff member that I wasn’t allowed to use the college system to spread political messages. It saddened me that demanding a say in my future, and the future of all life on Earth, was regarded as a political message. Surely me doing nothing would be a breach of my duty of care for future generations, just as our leaders doing nothing now is a failure to live up to theirs?

I want the people in power to wake up, become leaders, and realise that they only have 12 years to change their legacies. The fact that the movement so far has received so much positive attention gives me hope that it will prompt change – because we need drastic and immediate action.

Even if the climate strike doesn’t prompt the change we need and demand, it has given so many young people across the country a chance to raise their voice and make it heard. This movement is allowing young people to realise they’re not alone, that others care about the climate, and are worried about the future. I will continue to raise awareness of the climate crisis, and I will continue to demand change – starting with the global school strike on Friday.

• Rosie Smart-Knight is a 17-year-old student

I am taking part in the school climate strike. It’s the only power I have | Rosie Smart-Knight | Opinion | The Guardian

The Mail is covering it on-line:

School's out! Thousands of children across Britain ditch classes in mass protest against climate change - despite parents' concerns over missed lessons and the threat of £60 absence fines

Thousands of youngsters go on strike from school as part of a global youth action over climate change
Youth Strike 4 Climate strikes take place in 60 towns and cities across UK from Cornwall to the Highlands
Students want the Government declare a climate emergency and take active steps to tackle the problem
But school leaders and Education Secretary Damian Hinds warn students they should not miss lessons


PUBLISHED: 07:48, 15 February 2019 | UPDATED: 12:31, 15 February 2019

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Thousands of British children are on strike from school today as part of a global youth action over climate change. Youth Strike 4 Climate organisers say strikes are taking place in 60 towns and cities from Cornwall to the Scottish Highlands, in the face of 'an alarming lack of Government leadership' on climate change.

Among the banners held by pupils holding demonstrations across the country today were 'global warming isn't cool', 'there is no Planet B', 'when did the children become the adults' and 'don't burn our future'. Some of the protesters in Westminster stood on the statues of former prime ministers David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill at Parliament Square, with others carrying placards bearing Socialist Worker logos.

Students want the Government to declare a climate emergency and take active steps to tackle the problem, tell the public more about the size of the ecological crisis and reform the curriculum so it is an educational priority.

Parents could be fined £60 if they allow their child to take an unauthorised absence in some areas where schools are under pressure from councils - despite others actively encouraging children to make banners and attend. Mothers and fathers have been divided on social media over whether their children should go on strike, with some saying it was important for them to react to a major issue - but others suggesting it was an excuse to 'bunk up'.

There have been concerns over the walkouts being hijacked by hard-line climate groups and career activists, including include Extinction Rebellion, whose roadblocks brought parts of London to a standstill in November.

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas described the action as 'inspiring', but school leaders and Education Secretary Damian Hinds have warned students they should not miss lessons to take part in the strikes.


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The National Association of Head Teachers has told members to not authorise truancy and instead help children 'engage with social issues' in other ways, such as discussions in class or at lunchtime.

The Government has insisted the issue is a matter for individual headteachers to deal with, but it is understood ministers would not expect absence to be granted simply for a protest.

Some have critised the protest, including Toby Young, former director of the New Schools Network, who said: 'Calling this a strike is ridiculous. What are they going to do? Down pencils? This is just truanting.'

The Youth Strike 4 Climate movement has already seen strikes in Australia, Switzerland and Belgium, and has been inspired by Greta Thunberg, 16, who protests every Friday outside Sweden's parliament to urge leaders to tackle climate change.

The strikes come in the wake of a UN report which warned that limiting global temperature rises to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, beyond which climate impacts become increasingly severe, requires unprecedented action. That includes cutting global carbon dioxide emissions by almost half within 12 years. They also want recognition that young people have the biggest stake in the future, should be involved in policymaking, and that the voting age should be lowered to 16.

Schoolchildren, missing lessons for the day, carried banners bearing slogans including 'there is no planet B', 'global warming isn't a prediction - it's happening' and 'when did the children become the adults?'.

What are the Youth Strike 4 Climate protests about?

The walk-out is being organised by the Youth Strike 4 Climate movement, which has been encouraging children and their parents on social media to join in.

Students in the UK are demanding the Government declare a climate emergency and take active steps to tackle the problem, communicate the severity of the ecological crisis to the public and reform the curriculum to make it an educational priority. They also want recognition that young people have the biggest stake in the future, should be involved in policymaking, and that the voting age should be lowered to 16.

Youth Strike 4 Climate expects thousands of children - some as young as nine - to walk out at 11am and join protests in 40 towns and cities including Leeds, Bristol, Oxford and Exeter. The campaign leaders are being advised by militant green group, Extinction Rebellion, whose roadblocks brought parts of London to a standstill in November.

Campaigners have put together a slick public relations operation, providing children with template letters to schools which can be signed by their parents. There are also campaign leaflets and model messages which can be uploaded and shared on Whatsapp and Facebook.

One protester stood on the steps of the council's building with a megaphone and led chants of 'whose future? Our future' and 'hey, ho, fossil fuels have got to go'.

Jasper Giles, a six-year-old pupil at University of Cambridge Primary School, was at the protest with his mother Alissia Roberts. His mother said: 'I think it's worth taking a day off school to show support for this movement. I think it's really important and it will gather momentum.'

Maria Boznikoba, 40, attended with her eight-year-old daughter Gwen who is home-schooled. 'I really worry for the future of my daughter and I don't want her to be dealing with the stuff we're going to leave behind,' she said.

Ten-year-old Zachary Hird, a pupil at Cambridge's Newnham Croft Primary School, attended with his mother Diane Hird. He said: 'We don't want climate change and people just have to change their ways as we don't want the world as it is right now. We just want to make people aware of it. We were talking about it in our class so we just came along.' Asked how he felt about missing lessons for the day, he said: 'I feel climate change is more important - the world dying is a lot more bad than just, yeah.'

Student protesters in Brighton met at a clock tower with banners calling for action over climate change. Some students held banners saying they were refusing to take exams, while others read: 'Why should I clean my room when the world is in such a mess'. They then chanted for climate action immediately. 

Downing Street said that while it was important for young people to engage with issues like climate change, the disruption to planned lesson time was damaging for pupils.

'Everybody wants young people to be engaged in the issues that affect them most so that we can build a brighter future for all of us,' a No 10 spokesman said. But it is important to emphasise that disruption increases teachers' workloads and wastes lesson time that teachers have carefully prepared for. That time is crucial for young people, precisely so that they can develop into the top scientists, engineers and advocates we need to help tackle this problem.'

Nicola Sturgeon has backed youngsters who are skipping school to take part in climate change protests, describing their actions as a 'cause for optimism in an often dark world'. The First Minister spoke out as schoolchildren in Scotland joined in the global demonstration. It came despite Mr Hinds warning pupils they should not miss lessons to take part in the strikes.

But Ms Sturgeon took to Twitter to offer her support, saying: 'It's a cause for optimism, in an often dark world, that young people are taking a stand on climate change.' While she said the Scottish Government was a 'world leader' in acting against climate change, the urgency of the issue meant 'it is right that we are all challenged to do more and that we hear the voice of the next generation'.

Teenager Holly Gillibrand from Fort William is one of those taking part in the the protest, saying it would be a 'momentous day'. She tweeted: 'Young people all around the UK are uniting together in solidarity to demand that our leaders treat the climate and ecological crisis as the crisis it is.'

Scottish Green Party education spokesman Ross Greer urged education bosses to back pupils who are taking part in the protests rather than punish them.

Parents have taken to Twitter to discuss their thoughts on allowing children to go on protest marches instead of school today

He said: 'I commend every young person in Scotland and across the world who is joining this growing movement and speaking out against this existential threat to their future.' He stressed the Curriculum for Excellence system in Scottish schools 'is based on the idea that we support our young people to become responsible citizens'.

How the protests follow UN climate report urging 'unprecedented action'

The protests follow a United Nations report released last October, warning of the unprecedented changes needed by society to keep global temperatures from rising more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. While warming of 2C above pre-industrial levels has widely been thought of as the threshold beyond which dangerous climate change will occur, vulnerable countries such as low-lying island states warn rises above 1.5C will threaten their survival.

Their concerns meant a pledge to pursue efforts to limit temperature rises to 1.5C was included – after tough negotiations – alongside the commitment to keep them 'well below' 2C in the global Paris climate agreement in 2015. When the target was put into the Paris Agreement, relatively little was known about the climate risks that would be avoided in a 1.5C warmer world compared with a 2C warmer world, or about the action needed to limit temperature rises to that level.

So the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was tasked with providing the answers - and the report warns the world is well off track to keep to the 1.5C limit. Even with the promises countries have made as part of the Paris Agreement to cut the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming, the world is set to breach the 1.5C threshold by around 2040.

Mr Greer added: 'Every school student who takes action against the climate crisis on Friday is doing exactly that. They should know that they will not be punished for defending their own future. They have the Scottish Greens' support and I hope they will have the support of their teachers and education authorities.'

Anna Taylor, of UK Student Climate Network, said: 'We're running out of time for meaningful change, and that's why we're seeing young people around the world rising up to hold their governments to account on their dismal climate records. Unless we take positive action, the future's looking bleak for those of us that have grown up in an era defined by climate change.'

Energy minister Claire Perry told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: 'I suspect if this was happening 40 years ago, I would be out there too. I'm incredibly proud of the young people in the UK who are highly educated about this issue and feel very strongly - quite rightly - that we do need to take action because it's their generation that will bear the consequences.

'I do want to slightly caution that with the more official view that we can't put any more burdens on our superb teachers and teaching staff. I do hope that anyone missing school today does get their work and their homework done.'

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) said it supports the right of young people to express themselves but it did not condone students being out of the classroom to take action.

The movement has been inspired by Greta Thunberg (pictured in Davos on January 25), who protests every Friday outside Sweden's parliament to urge leaders to tackle climate change

Speaking from Stockholm, climate activist Greta told ITV's Good Morning Britain that once people 'fully understand the meaning of the climate crisis, you can't un-understand it'

Youth Strike 4 Climate organisers say strikes are taking place in 60 towns and cities from Cornwall to the Scottish Highlands

In a statement, the NAHT said: 'While a school leader's role is to ensure children attend school, are kept safe and receive a good quality of education, it is right that individual school leaders can decide how best to respond to any proposed protest by students in their school on Friday.'

Where are the Youth Strike 4 Climate protests?

Ullapool Primary School
Lochaber High School, Fort William
Torquay town hall
Port Erin, Isle Of Man
Newcastle University
Forest Row, East Sussex
Devon County Hall, Exeter
Shire Hall, Cambridge
St George's Clock Tower Canterbury
Holy Trinity Church, Guildford
Preston train station
Swansea University
Senedd, Cardiff
Winchester Buttercross Monument
Clock Tower, Brighton
Bonn Square, Oxford
Sheffield town hall
St George's Hall, Liverpool
St Helen's Square, York
Parliament Square, London
Market Square, Nottingham
Leeds Town Hall
New County Hall, Truro
Market Place, Durham
SOS Green, Stroud
Belfast City Hall
Parliament of Scotland, Edinburgh
Much Dewchurch
Chester town hall
High Wycombe town centre
Huddersfield train station
Hay-on-Wye Clock Tower
Glasgow City Chambers
Forres High Street
Hastings town centre
The Quay, Bideford
Church Street, Grantham
Henley Street, Stratford upon Avon
College Green, Bristol
Shipley town centre
Victoria Square, Birmingham
Guildhall, Bath
Offord D'Arcy
Guildhall Square, Southampton
Bournemouth town hall
Hereford Sixth Form College
The Forum, Norwich
Newbury town council hall
Manchester Central Library
Petersfield town square
Mr Hinds said: 'I want young people to be engaged in key issues affecting them and involving themselves in causes they care about. But let me be clear, missing class won't do a thing to help the environment; all they will do is create extra work for teachers.' He added it was ultimately a matter for headteachers, but he did not want teachers being burdened with the extra-workload the strikes could create.

London mayor Sadiq Khan, speaking at the National Clean Air Summit at the Tate Modern yesterday, said he understands why children feel 'very strongly' about pollution and climate change and called for politicians to take 'great strides to clear up the air across our country'. He said: 'I say to my fellow politicians, we can be the first generation to get it and find solutions, or the last generation not to get it.'

The strike is being supported by environmental campaign groups and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, who will address students on their walkout in Brighton. Ms Lucas, who described the action as 'inspiring', said: 'Our children recognise that this is a climate emergency. They are striking this week because they know we cannot carry on as normal. Teachers work hard to prepare students for their future but right now that future is at serious risk.'

Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman and former teacher Layla Moran also backed the young people who have 'taken up such an important and principled cause' and said she would be joining students in Oxford.

Speaking from Stockholm today, Greta told ITV's Good Morning Britain: 'I think that the first time I heard about climate change when I was eight or nine years old. It was when my teachers told me there's something called climate change and it's caused by humans. They showed us films and pictures, and I just thought it was very worrying, I was very scared of it. I thought that it was very strange that there was such an existential threat that would threaten our very existence and our civilisation and yet that wasn't our first priority and we weren't talking about it that much.

'So I became interested in it, and I started reading about it – like books and movies and articles – and the more I read about it, the more I understand. Once you fully understand the meaning of the climate crisis you can't un-understand it – then you have to do something about it.'

Meanwhile Richard Baker, chief executive of extreme-scale data intelligence firm GeoSpock, said: 'It's inspiring to see some of our youngest citizens taking action on climate change, but it shouldn't have to take school strikes for governments and policymakers to act on this public health crisis.'

Students and young people are set to follow up on February's action with a second round of strikes taking place on March 15 as part of a global youth strike.

Youth Strike 4 Climate protests take place across Britain | Daily Mail Online

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