On Friday 15 March 2019, in a westward rippling wave across the world, students will strike for the climate. In action possibly inspired by a Swedish schoolgirl, Greta Thunberg going to Davos to lecture political leaders about the effects of climate change on her generation, possibly hundreds of thousands of students around the world are going to strike. Their target: the politicians who hold the power and the means to address climate change.
It is important to understand before I delve into the depth of this article that I am not necessarily condoning the strike action itself. I am acknowledging the fact that one cannot really expect students to just shut, roll over and pretend there is not a problem, when it is their generation that will have to deal with the consequences in whatever form they come.
Of course there will be a few students who, not being socially minded, will think that it is an opportunity for a day off. That is not the case.
Schools, expected to be the most in tune with the sentiments of their students, are surprisingly out of touch as to the larger objective that the students are trying to achieve here. Far from expecting to have an impact on the actual carbon footprint, which schools seem to think is their aim, the idea is to make politicians stop and think about why they have elected to mass boycott classes.
One grave mistake we make with students is that they are do not understand these problems, or that they should leave “adult issues” to adults to sort out. But when the adults are visibly fiddling around the edges whilst more and more evidence of a major environmental emergency emerge at an alarming frequency, it is folly to expect students and young people not to notice. It is almost as if we think their eyes, their ears and their brains operate on a different wave length. In that context I like to think of it as a radio in the pre-digital days where one had to turn the dial ever so slightly to make sure that the needle picked up the channel, and that the students dial is set to a point on the edge of the channel – with a lot of static around it.
So, when I think about it like that, I am only all the more surprised then that these same schools are not rushing to to look at ways that they can try to reach some sort of accommodation with the students. It is obvious that this is a well advanced plan and that come Friday some sort of disruption is going to take place irrespective of how many schools are on board, on the fence, or threatening to dish out disciplinary action.
I am surprised that there does not appear to have been some sort of communication between school boards, the Ministry of Education and activist groups assisting the students with their big protest.
As for the political parties, National and A.C.T., aside from not seriously being concerned about climate change, would much rather this happened on a strike day so that it can be drowned out by the sound of striking teachers and forgotten about. New Zealand First probably wants them to stay in school, though I think it can see why they are getting uppity about it. Any support will come from Labour and the Greens, with reservations – despite agreeing that climate change will be the problem of the protesting students, they will not want to be seen encouraging mass bunking of classes.
But something is going to happen on Friday, schools or no schools; political parties or no political parties. They better start talking because I have a feeling it is too late to stop; probably too late to isolate to just a few schools and possibly too late to even slow the momentum down. Such is the level of concern. Such is Strike for Climate, Friday 15 March 2019.