By Clare BruceFriday 13 Sep 2019
Above: Australian school students in a 2019 School Strike 4 Climate rally. Pics: Facebook
Over 200,000 Australian children and teenagers are anticipated to skip school on Friday, September 20, to join in “School Strike 4 Climate” protest rallies across the nation.
The non-sanctioned event is part of a larger international protest movement, the “Global Climate Strike”, calling for urgent action against climate change. Ultimately, the movement wants to see “an end to the age of fossil fuels”.
Millions of people in more than 100 countries are expected to participate in climate rallies between September 20 and 27. The protests will coincide with the United Nations Emergency Climate Summit, a gathering of world leaders in New York.
In Australia, rallies are planned for every capital city and more than 70 regional centres, with Sydney’s event to be held in The Domain. Thousands of Australian adults are expected to take the day off work, too, for the student-led events.
- Should School Students be “Striking” for the Planet? The Christian Case for Activism
- To Love Our Kids & Neighbours, We Must Live Greener. Here’s Why.
A similar protest was held on March 15 this year, with an estimated 1.6 million participants worldwide, and the September 20 day is expected to be even bigger.
Christian and faith-based organisations getting behind the movement include the Australian social justice group Common Grace, the UK-based charity ChristianAid, the Catholic Climate Movement, and the interfaith coalition, GreenFaith.
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Pushing for an End to Fossil Fuel Mining
Climate protesters in Australia have an ambitious wish-list for the Federal Government.
They want to see an end to all fossil fuel mining (oil, coal and gas); a commitment to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030; and transitioning of fossil fuel industry workers into alternative employment.
They also want the planned Adani coal mine in Queensland to be axed. Set to be one of the biggest coal mines in the world, the Adani mine is considered by green groups and the CSIRO to be an environmental disaster in the making – particularly for fragile wetlands and the struggling Great Barrier Reef.
The School Strike 4 Climate group describes itself as “school student led, decentralised, grassroots, non-partisan, inclusive and non-violent”. They envision a future “powered by the wind and the sun, not dirty and dangerous coal and gas. Free from extreme weather, drought, pollution and sickness. Where everyone can enjoy our beautiful environment, clean air, clean water & a healthy Reef.”
“We’re striking in solidarity with everyone who’s being hurt by the climate crisis already,” says the site, “and everyone who will be impacted if we don’t act now: First Nations people, workers, young people, mining communities and more.”
Inspired by a Swedish Teenager
The Climate Strike movements were born out of protests held last year by one small, shy, Swedish schoolgirl – Greta Thunberg.
A solemn, deep-thinking 16-year-old who has Asperger’s Syndrome and has struggled with depression, Greta became known around the world in 2018 when she began holding her own one-girl “strikes” for the planet. Each Friday, initially for three weeks, she skipped school and sat on the ground outside the Swedish parliament, holding signs demanding politicians get serious about climate change.
Posting about her protest on social media with the hashtags #FridaysForFuture and #Climatestrike, Greta became internet famous. She decided to continue striking every Friday until such time as Sweden’s policies come in line with the Paris Accord – aiming to keep global temperature rise under 2 degrees Celsius.
Her initiative sparked similar protests in front of parliament houses and city halls around the world, and birthed the organisation, Fridays for Future.
A Passion for the Planet
Greta (pictured) wrote in Australia’s Guardian that she first learnt about climate change in school when she was 8.
She was shocked at how badly mankind had damaged the planet, yet how silent world politicians were on the issue.
“I remember thinking it was very strange that we were capable of changing the entire face of the Earth… yet our leaders never talked about it,” she writes. “If burning fossil fuels threatened our very existence, then how could we continue to burn them? …And what about the fact that up to 200 species are going extinct every single day?”
In an article by the New York Times Greta said the issues made her very sad, and by age 11 she was in the throes of serious depression. But by age 15, she’d recovered, found purpose, found her voice, and begun her activism.
She has since spoken to world leaders at the United Nations climate conference, confronted business leaders with a speech at the World Economic Forum, and has now taken a year off school to devote to environmental activism.
Remarkably, to attend the upcoming UN Climate Summit, Greta travelled to New York last month on a yacht, because aircraft cause too much pollution. Accompanied by her dad and a cameraman, she sailed the two-week journey on The Malizia II, a zero-emissions racing yacht with no shower or toilet.
Climate Change Sceptics Say “No Cause for Panic”
Meanwhile, climate change sceptics are running their own campaign trying to dissuade governments from committing to zero-emissions targets.
The Independent this week reported that 400 leaders – including academics, politicians, lobbyists, and fossil fuel industry bosses – had signed a letter to EU and UN leaders, asserting that changes in the climate aren’t man-made, but are “expected from the cyclic behaviour of the climate system”.
The campaign is being run by the Climate Intelligence Foundation (Clintel), a climate science denial group started by Guus Berkhout – formerly a leader in the oil and gas industry.
“There is no climate emergency and therefore no cause for panic and alarm,” the letter states. “Our advice to political leaders is that science should aim at significantly better understanding the climate system while politics should focus on minimising potential climate damage.”
Signatories on the letter include heads of oil and gas companies, members of the UK climate denial group Global Warming Policy Foundation and the Geological Society of London, and controversial Northumbria University scientist Professor Valentina Zharkova – who believes climate change is caused by solar cycles.
Governments Declare Global Emergency; PM Scott Morrison has Mixed Feelings
Climate activism has been hotting up worldwide since October 2018, when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a troubling report on the effects of global warming.
Based on three years’ research, the report outlined how a temperature rise of 1.5 degrees celcius would affect the earth, and said we may only have 11 years left to minimise the effects of a climate catastrophe.
In May, the UK Parliament declared “a national climate emergency”, and in June Sydney City Council followed suit, committing to reducing carbon emissions. Internationally a Climate Emergency Fund has also been established by which rich philanthropists can support “disruptive” climate protests around the world.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has less enthusiasm than other nations for the IPCC report. Last year he halted Australian donations to the Green Climate Fund – a key component of the Paris Accord that is meant to help developing nations cope with climate change and reduce their emissions.
He told 2GB that Australia would stick with the Paris Accord, “so long as we’re not throwing money into some global climate fund and getting pulled around by the nose by all these international agencies.”
However, at the Pacific Islands Forum in August this year, he announced Australia’s own $500 million climate change and oceans package – for renewable energy projects and disaster relief in the Pacific.