Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.
Everyone is entitled to, and is going to have, their own opinion on the efforts taken in the climate strikes. While I respect that, I think it’s important to note that the recently published article ‘The Stupidity of the Climate Striking Schools is Putting Children’s Lives in Danger’ is not only factually incorrect, but also incredibly insensitive and misunderstands the danger our planet is in.
The Grenfell Tower was a great tragedy, and action is needed to prevent anything of this magnitude again. However, the disaster has absolutely nothing to do with our current climate situation or the strikes that are taking place. It is still very raw and to bring it up in such a way as to condemn climate strikes and place guilt is impervious.
Moreover, the use of fire alarms in the strikes did not downplay the real danger of fire. The use of fire alarms was planned in advance, and places across the country were expected to set them off at 1pm on the 20th September strike day. The use of these alarms was not detrimental to fire safety or the children’s well-being. The alarms are incredibly loud and disturbing. There is nothing about the alarms that seem as though they signal anything other than danger and fear.
To define the strike days as ‘excit[ing]’ detracts from the magnitude of the situation that we are facing. Plus, it grossly misunderstands the significance of the use of the fire alarms. Children will not associate the alarms with ‘the excitement of a strike day’, they will still associate it with danger. They will still associate the sound with fire. The sound of the alarms is intense, and it is scary. Children are being taught that the world is danger and we should be doing something about that. There is nothing remotely exciting about that.
The article claims that the use of the fire alarms is ‘arbitrary, self-aggrandising, and frankly life-endangering’. As I’ve already stated nobody’s life was threatened by the move, and I have to strongly disagree that these strikes were arbitrary. The alarms have their intended effect to educate and raise awareness. Our planet is dying; climate strikes are not arbitrary and are, in fact, very important.
Many of the children striking will already have a firm understanding of the need for climate strikes, and for those who don’t, the strikes serve to educate. Although missing school means the children also miss out on valuable education, even the National Education Union (NEU) commented that:
While the NEU cannot support or call strike action on 20 September, we recognise that the young people we teach will face the biggest impact of climate change and that they have shown knowledge, courage and leadership in responding to the crisis.
The real matter we need to be discussing is why children should have to be striking at all. This is the generation who are going to be most affected by climate change and it is a problem that has been brought upon them by previous generations’ actions. Our world was already dying when they were born and yet the responsibility has fallen on their shoulders to do something about it.
If we are to discuss stupidity in regard to the climate strikes it is not the use of fire alarms that is stupid. What is stupid is that many adults, primarily the large corporations, will not do anything about it. It is stupid that it should have to fall on the children to sacrifice their education in order to wake people up. This is a very real and terrifying problem that is facing us right now and determines the rest of our, and the younger generations’, lives.
Greta Thunberg, who has quickly become a key face behind the climate strike action, wants adults to stand up:
Adults keep saying: we owe it to the young people to give them hope. But I don’t want your hope. […] I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear that I feel every day. And then I want you to act. […] I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.
We need to question why the adults aren’t scared and acting too, how is it the young children who are the most scared? The children who are striking have every right to be doing so, they are not yet old enough to be in the power to make the change and it is them who will face the real consequences of the damage we have done to our planet.
And for anyone who says it is detrimental to children’s education to strike, consider what Greta says:
‘why should I be studying for a future that soon will be no more, when no one is doing anything whatsoever to save that future’. [Greta Thunberg, ‘No One Is Too Small To Make a Difference’, p.11.]
We need to secure a future for these children before we complain about an education that they might not even get.
Finally, to call the use of fire alarms in the strikes ‘callous’ is a large overreaction to something that did not cause any one any harm. It certainly is not on the same level as the danger that was caused by the drones at Heathrow. To state that the Extinction Rebellion were behind the drones at Heathrow is simply incorrect. Heathrow Pause, a faction of Extinction Rebellion, failed in an attempt to launch drones at the airport at nighttime that was aimed at meaning the airport would not be able to open in the morning. These actions are certainly life-endangering and should not be condoned, but as Heathrow Pause are only a faction of the Extinction Rebellion blame is not to be placed on XR as a whole. And it certainly has nothing to do with the school strikes for climate.
Rather than criticising climate strike actions we need to consider what we can, and should, be doing to save our planet and give our children a future.