An Open Letter to the School Students on Strike
Dear high school students of Australia,
Over the last 24 hours, I’ve kept up to date with the the news following your Big School Walk Out events across the country in protest of the government’s inaction on climate change. I’ve been reading everyone’s opinions about your action, from the Prime Minister’s hypocritical outrage to the grammatically incoherent comments on local newspapers’ Facebook posts.
You’re copping a lot of heat for an action as innocent and passive as taking a day off from school to attend a rally. And you’re doing a damn good job of keeping headstrong. I just hope that the onslaught of negative remarks you’ve been receiving doesn’t deter you in any way. The greatest failure that could come from this is having enthusiastic and engaged young people become discouraged. These types of actions are meant to be empowering and affirming. I hope the comments of a handful of people don’t drag you down.
Please, don’t stop protesting. Don’t stop telling our government what you want and what we need to do in order to be able to survive the catastrophic events climate change is already throwing at us. Don’t stop making your voices heard. Don’t stop taking action, even when you become old enough to take part in elections. Unfortunately, casting your vote once every four years is not enough to ensure our interests and futures are safe and secure.
Please don’t lose hope. Don’t become disheartened by the words of those who are too spineless to do what is right. Don’t become jaded by the opinions of those who are hiding inside the filthy pockets of the fossil fuel industry. They are simply trying to outrun their shame. There are more people out there that stand with you, than those who stand against you and we back you all the way. Your courage, tenacity and commitment are admirable and inspiring.
To those students who have not yet committed to taking part in the protest this week, I understand. Standing up for something you care about isn’t very cool when you’re in high school. Or maybe you don’t completely understand this whole climate change issue. It’s a lot to comprehend and it’s certainly not something you should feel is your responsibility to address.
But honestly, our government is doing about the worst possible job they could be when it comes to climate action. The Adani Coal Mine, what could be the largest mine in the southern hemisphere, is not only supported by our federal government, but being given access to unlimited water and completely trashing Indigenous land rights. Australia has some of the highest carbon emissions per capita in the world, and they’re not getting any lower, despite our international promise at the Paris Climate Summit to reduce them by 26 – 28 per cent by 2030.
Of course it’s not your job to fix all of this. Society pointing its finger at individuals instead of corporations and governments is partly the reason we’re in this mess in the first place. But if the thought of living through unprecedented drought, bush fires and flooding makes you a little bit scared for your future, if the knowledge that the people causing climate change are making money, while those who have done the least to contribute to it are losing their homes makes you angry, if the thought that governments have known about the extreme consequences of climate change since BEFORE YOU WERE BORN makes you say, “What the fuck, what have you been doing?” then please, consider taking just one day to stand up with your fellow classmates across the country and demand our government do better.
Demand they do something! Demand they put people over profit, the planet over the economy, young people over the fossil fuel industry. Demand they lead with their heads and their hearts, not with their wallets.
Despite what the Prime Minister says about missing a day of school, you’re sure to learn a lot more about the importance of activism, the nature of the political system and the power of your voice through one day of action than you ever could in a classroom.
Don’t listen to them when they tell you to be quiet, take a seat and go back to school. When the government is trying to shut you down before the action has even started, that means it’s working. Full steam ahead.
Sincerely yours in climate action and sticking it to the man
If you’re interested in taking part in one of the Big School Walk Out actions across the country, check out the School Strike 4 Climate website here.
Cover via The Echo