By VERONICA ANASSIS
School students will meet for urgent climate change action at the Domain in Sydney on September 20 as part of a national protest to abolish coal mining.
Supporters of the “Schools Strike 4 Climate” movement are marching once again, fed up with governments not treating climate change seriously. Australian students in the hundreds of thousands are skipping school to march across major cities and five dozen regional towns.
In Sydney, union members, working adults and an estimated 2,000 uni students will join them. They are rallying for an ambitious complete shift to renewable energy generation and exports by 2030. The youths are outraged that new mining projects, including Queensland’s highly contested Adani mine, continue to be supported by federal government. Along with the threat of damage to the Great Artesian Basin and sacred Indigenous land, the mine will expel 4.6 billion tonnes of carbon pollution and take up $4.4bn in government subsidy funding.
Frontline of climate crisis
“Australia is already on the frontlines of the climate crisis,” said Schools Strike 4 Climate. “Just at the time when we need to ramp up climate solutions, we have elected a government that is helping billionaire companies like Adani open the floodgates to new coal, oil and gas projects which put all of us in the firing line of more dangerous climate impacts,” they said.
Since their last protest in March, they’ve added transitioning fossil-fuel industry workers to their list of demands.
Sydney-siders swarmed the Town Hall in March alongside 150,000 strikers across Australia and millions from 125 countries. The upcoming strikes are expected to draw double that figure. They are taking to the streets just three days before the UN emergency climate summit in New York, hoping to send home the message that concern is growing all over the country.
“They need to walk into that meeting with our voices and demands ringing in their ears,” said Schools Strike 4 Climate.
“By taking time off school and work, together around the world, we’ll show our politicians that people everywhere want climate justice, and we’re not going away until we get it.”
Despite pledging $500 million to aid Tuvalu − at dire risk from rising sea levels − the government’s stance on global warming in Australia remains staunchly conservative.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison attended the Pacific Islands Forum just a fortnight ago, where Fijian officials accused him of refusing to budge on “red lines” or commit to warming limits of 1.5 degrees.
According to recent reports by the UN, even 1.5 degree warming targets will cause 90 per cent of coral reefs to vanish. This is projected to occur in the next two decades.
Alarmingly, even attempts to cap the warming at that level will require a 45 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030, and “net zero” by 2050.
Many students are concerned that progress is at a snail’s pace, and their future looks bleak.
The school strike movement faces credibility when its participants are under age. A spokesperson for Greenpeace, which is helping to set up and marshal the strike, told City Hub that despite being minors – with most participants not old enough to vote − young teens have the maturity to grasp complex issues and develop personal ethics.
“I certainly think 14-year-olds are capable of making decisions for themselves, of understanding what they value, and expressing their concern for the environment,” the spokesperson said.
Adults follow kids’ lead
Many adults, too, are getting involved on the day, with colleagues collecting to pull mass workplace no-shows. Harrison Engstrom, a social media executive in Walsh Bay, has convinced six of his current and ex-work mates to take annual leave, or work from home on the day. Mr Egstrom was inspired by Australian tech company Atlassian, which is encouraging its workforce to join the global climate strikes this month. Mr Engstrom, 28, says he’s walking with students for basic things we take for granted and are at serious risk, like breathable air.
“We’ve only got 20 years max, and there have been significant noticeable changes to our environment in the last 5-10 years,” Mr Engstrom told City Hub.
“With taking off one day, maybe half a day − worst case scenario you just work from home − what’s it going to cost you really?” he said. “You’re not just benefitting the country, but the entire world. This [strike] is supported by millions. If you can add to that count, that’s the least you do.”
You can get involved in the strike by visiting http://www.schoolsstrike4climate.com.