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When will they listen? A school striker's lament

  • 28 January 2020


On 20 September 2019, an estimated 300,000 students attended the many 'School Strike 4 Climate' protests across Australia. According to the ABC, the protestors called for the federal government to commit to powering Australia entirely by renewable energy sources by 2030, stop providing federal funding for coal and oil projects, and ensure 'a just transition and job creation for all fossil fuel industry workers and communities'.

Among the bustle of hundreds of thousands of teenagers with clever signs, mild sunburns, and a palpable disdain for major party politics, there was a burning sense that we could change the world. The noise we made felt so deafening that no one could ignore it. 

And then we were promptly ignored.

In response to the demands made by the protestors, Prime Minister Scott Morrison simply said in a session of parliament on 26 November, 'What we want is more learning in schools and less activism in schools.'

On the 26th of August 2019, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian appeared on QandA on a special episode where the panel and audience were made up of NSW high school students. Berejiklian was asked how she felt about students striking to demand action on climate change. The premier stated that she 'encourage[s] protest, but outside of school hours. I think you should protest on school grounds ... I think there are so many creative ways to get your point across.' 

On 20 December 2019, the Australian bushfires began in rural New South Wales. At present, this fire has killed 27 people, including firefighters and volunteers, destroyed over 2000 homes, and has burned 11.2 million hectares of bushland. In response to the fires, the Australian chapter of 'Extinction Rebellion' organised a number of protests all around the country, challenging the government's lack of action on climate change. A review of 57 scientific papers published since 2013, done by Britain's Met Office Hadley Centre found that climate change has led to an increase in the frequency and severity of periods with a high fire risk, due to a combination of high temperatures, low humidity, strong winds, and little rain.

Richard Betts, one of the co-writers of the review, stated that 'Australia is particularly vulnerable to fires since its land area has warmed by more than the rise in global temperature of about one degree Celsius since pre-industrial times.' But despite the significant amount of scientific evidence that climate change has created the conditions which