Students sick of waiting for change

OPINION: Passionate environmental advocate and student reporter Ruby Vidgen reflects on the recent climate strike and the issues behind it.

On Friday the 15th of March over 2000 students, parents, teachers and other members of the community met at the cathedral steps in Nelson to express their concerns over what the government is doing (or rather not doing) to reduce the effects of global warming.

It’s a curious thing that us young people have little to no say on how our countries are run, or what plans are in store for the future, but we are the ones who will live to see the results. Swedish 16 year old climate change campaigner and global strike organiser Greta Thunberg feels the same, as do millions of us young people across the globe who participated in the climate strike on the day. Over 350 students from Nelson College for Girls marched from the college to the church steps where they joined students from across the Nelson/Tasman region.

The success of the strike came down to the amazing group of young people who spent weeks organising the event, working around the clock to secure bull horns, various speakers, chants and advertisements. There were also witty signs that read things like ‘I’m sure the dinosaurs thought they had time too’ or the classic ‘global warming isn’t cool’ quip. Nayland College student leader Mia Faulkner was front and centre at the march. “The things we do now are going to have significant impacts on our future,” she said.

Five of the student organisers wrote and read aloud an open letter to the government with their list of demands. It states that we have known for over 50 years about the threats global warming pose to our earth and, although laws and restrictions have been put in place, world leaders are not doing enough to enforce them. The demands include limiting the warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, reaching carbon neutrality by 2050 or sooner and, most importantly, making sure paths are put in place so that we may track our progress as a country and hold the government accountable.

Unfortunately, on the same day the Christchurch terror attacks also occurred. This meant that, although there is never a good day for such an awful attack, the lack of media attention on the strike has been disheartening. But we cannot be discouraged. “Don’t be afraid to be vocal,” Mia Faulkner said. “Just because of our age, the media tries to discredit us. The best way to combat that is by knowing the facts”. We’ve all heard the phrase ‘knowledge is power’ and that is exactly what we need to keep in mind right now.

Until big changes are made we, the people, can make changes to our everyday lives; simple things like buying glass bottles instead of plastic if you have to get a drink, or using soap bars instead of bottles of shower gel and conditioner. It is important to think about your carbon foot print and how much damage you are causing as a consumer. To reduce your carbon foot print you don’t have to be 100% vegan, it is as simple as just starting a compost bin to reduce the amount of waste going to the land fill.

Many have said that protests don’t do anything that ‘striking isn’t a real protest’ and that if you want real change, you should get into parliament or become an environmental scientist. However, the research has been done and we know what we need to do to fix this and we know what and who is to blame. What we need now is immediate action – no more beating around the bush. We need people acknowledging what they have done and making real progress moving forward.

At the end of the day, this wasn’t an excuse for students to wag and, if we’d done it on a weekend, it wouldn’t have gained the attention from the media that it did prior to the strike. Students want to show the world that the environment is more important than missing a few classes. Of course you can’t become a doctor or a rocket scientist without attending class but in 50 years’ time when the Fox Glacier is a distant memory, we won’t be regretful of the excellence credits we missed out on. Instead, we will look at our children with overwhelming guilt because we knew exactly what we needed to do to fix this and we didn’t.

If you are someone who feels deeply about issues surrounding the environment please check out NEST (Nayland Environment and Sustainability Team) in Lab 4B at morning tea on Wednesdays.  

By student reporter Ruby Vidgen