By CHRISTINE CHEN
On Friday afternoon, thousands of students converged on Town Hall in Sydney as part of the School Strike 4 Climate movement. Protests calling for urgent climate action and a sustainable COVID-19 recovery plan were held across the country, for the first time since September, 2019.
Undeterred by the pouring rain, protesters held up placards reading ‘Fund our future, not gas’, ‘Fossil Fools’ and ‘Planet over Profit’, and chanted “The oceans are rising, no more compromising,” to make their disaffection with the Government’s energy policies clear.
With young people likely to bear the brunt of an unmitigated climate crisis, the need for urgent action was stressed by the rally’s speakers—most of them being young students themselves.
Patrick Rudd, a high school student who organised his first climate strike when he was only 14, said the Government’s climate policy amounted to “inter-generational theft, sacrificing the future of young people.”
He criticised political inertia and drew attention to the fact Australia was on track for only a 7% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 at its current pace. Rudd also spoke of his first-hand experience, living in a community affected by last Summer’s bushfires.
“On some days the sky was blood orange and lights at school looked blue because our eyes had adjusted to a lens of red,” he reflected.
Human-caused climate change exacerbates the frequency, intensity, and impacts of extreme weather events. However, its effects are not felt equally—populations in island and coastal regions are particularly vulnerable.
Samoan activist Pelepesite Matangi, from Pacific Climate Warriors, said “the climate crisis is affecting marginalised communities the most” and “the land that sheltered my ancestors is the same land my future grandchildren have a right to enjoy.”
The lack of consultation with First Nations communities was also highlighted throughout the speeches; speakers reiterated “There is no climate justice without First Nations justice.”
Gamilaraay man Ian Brown inveighed against Santos’ $3.6 billion Narrabri Gas Project, which was given environmental approval by MP Sussan Ley. Brown lamented how it would destroy his peoples’ land.
“They deny our sovereign rights as First Nations people of Gamilaraay country. They don’t engage with us in proper consultation. They disregard our fears.”
Last week’s Federal budget allocated a further $58.6 million to ‘gas-fired’ recovery measures, and the Government has not elucidated how it would meet Australia’s commitments to reduce pollution under international climate agreements.
Allen Hicks, National Secretary for the Electrical Trades Union of Australia, spoke for workers in emission-intensive industries and said “the government needs to provide pathways for workers to work in renewables.”
After the main demonstration, protestors marched through Sydney’s CBD to Prince Alfred Park. Ishara, a 16-year-old student from Pymble Ladies’ College, who attended the protest with her friends, said the atmosphere was “empowering.”
“It shows me that I can have a say in my future, even if the Government doesn’t think so.”