[First published by The Clare People on March 12, 2019]
Why are students rising, like the tide, all around the world? Because, tides are rising. As a 17 year student at Coláiste Muire in Ennis, I am aware that my future is not safe. My life is in the hands of politicians who will never be affected as drastically by the impacts of climate change as I will be. My generation face climate catastrophe if immediate action is not taken by those in power today. Yet, I lack power over my present and future as I am without a vote. My voice can only heard by causing enough of a scene that people stop to listen.
Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old from Sweden began protesting during school hours, appealing to her government to reduce carbon emissions to achieve the targets set in the Paris Agreement. Thunberg inspired students everywhere to unite under the Fridays for Future Campaign.
On February 14, after seeing innumerable videos and articles describing past strikes and predicting large ones the next day, I realised not only that I could be doing something, but I should do something. It was [is] my planet, my future. I had [have] to take action to protect it.
Though I was the sole school striker in Clare on February 15, up to 70,000 children per week have been striking in 270 cities. That Friday, approximately 15,000 absconded from school in the UK. In Ireland, primary school students waved signs outside Leinster House two days earlier, while regular strikes take place on Fridays in Cork and Dublin. Ennis will hopefully see a larger group this Friday, March 15 from 11am to 1pm, the date for worldwide student strikes. Limerick and Galway are also expecting action.
I’ve been asked countless times why I would protest during school hours, not at the weekend. Would I have got any sort of media platform to voice my viewpoints had I not crossed boundaries? This was a way to be heard; I am unable to make changes through the democratic process of voting, being considered too young to have well thought out opinions.
My protest was noticed by the media and local politicians here in Clare. Ennis Council candidate, Seamus Ryan acknowledged that, ‘we must not let the chance to avert this disaster pass’. Additionally, I had the opportunity to converse with the Mayor of Ennis, Clare Colleran Molloy, who told me of her concerns around single use plastics, and her vision for the distribution of plastic free ‘to keep cups’ to the inhabitants of the town.
While I did not attend school because I was attempting to better the collective future of all mankind, many students left early to prepare for the teenage disco that evening. My peers are often absent for what I would consider less crucial matters.
After British Prime Minister, Theresa May, made a statement complaining of students ‘wasting lesson time’ Greta Thunberg responded with a tweet declaring, ‘that may well be the case. But then again, political leaders have wasted 30 yers of inaction. And that is slightly worse’.
The demands of the school-strikers are simple. More than 97 per cent of actively publishing climate scientists agree that climate change is occurring. We are schoolchildren, not scientists. Therefore, we do not have intricate plans to halt the warming of the Earth; politicians must heed scientists’ warnings and advice. [Ireland] Our countries must actually reduce carbon emissions in accordance with the Paris Agreement and the IPCC Report, maintaining global warming levels below 1.5 degrees. As individuals, there is only so much that we can affect, together we can make a difference.
To close her TED talk, Greta announced that “This is where people usually start talking about hope, solar panels…and so on, but I’m not going to do that. We’ve had 30 years of pep-talking and selling positive ideas…but it doesn’t work. Because if it would have, the emissions would have gone down by now…we do need hope, but the one thing we need more than hope is action. Once we start to act, hope is everywhere.”
Now is no longer the time for small steps, leaps and bounds are imperative. While we must reduce our consumption of fossil fuels and plastic, we must not let ourselves or the politicians who represent us be distracted by petty affairs.