Climate change is the biggest threat to our futures, not striking from school

We are walking out for a day to send the Australian government a message: you can no longer pretend we are not here

Students protest inaction by the Australian government on climate change outside Parliament House in Canberra.
School students protest inaction by the Australian government on climate change outside Parliament House in Canberra on Wednesday. Children are striking all over the country this month. Photograph: Maya Suzuki

T his month, hundreds of children are going on strike from school to demand urgent action on climate change. From rural Victoria to Townsville, we are walking out of school for a day or more to tell our politicians to listen to us and protect our futures.

We are Milou, Jean and Harriet and we are 14 years old.

Two of us – Milou and Harriet – live in rural Victoria. Throughout our lives, we’ve witnessed the impacts that drought, bushfires and extreme weather have on a community. We have been forced to evacuate when a bushfire came through our town. It was scary. But it is something that will happen more and more as climate change gets worse.

We feel frustrated and let down when we think about the climate crisis and our future. There is so much our politicians could be doing that they aren’t. It seems they are in denial. Our government is supposed to protect us, not destroy our chances of a safe future.

Climate change doesn’t only affect our environment. It affects our physical and mental wellbeing. Milou’s mum is a psychologist and she knows how much something like a bushfire can threaten everything a person cares about. It’s hard to hold on to dreams for the future when we don’t know what that future holds.

Ecosystems will continue to change: Some species will move farther north or become more successful; others, such as polar bears, won’t be able to adapt and could become extinct.

We feel hurt when we hear people say that we can’t think for ourselves because we’re still children. This is just an excuse not to listen to us. We are perfectly capable of thinking for ourselves. We deserve to be heard and understood.

As kids, we can’t yet vote or run for government, however scientists say there’s only about a decade left for us to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. By the time our generation is making decisions, it will be too late. We’re striking from school to push for urgent change now.

We were inspired after seeing 15-year-old Greta from Sweden in the newspaper. She’s striking every Friday to put climate change in the spotlight in her country. Australia is even more vulnerable to climate change impacts, which is why we are doing the same here.

Greta Thunberg leads a school strike outside the Swedish parliament, in an effort to force politicians to act on climate change.Pinterest
Greta Thunberg leads a school strike outside the Swedish parliament, in an effort to force politicians to act on climate change. Photograph: Michael Campanella for the Guardian

We are also inspired by the stories of other kids in our community’s history who did big things to stand up for their values. Jean goes to Fort Street high and in the 60s, kids from her school went on strike to protest the war in Vietnam. They took a stand to help stop the atrocity. Young people have always been part of big movements for social change, and we intend to be the same.

CLIMATE CHANGE FACT: There is no scientific debate about the reality of climate change. Multiple studies show that a massive 97 per cent of researchers believe global warming is happening and that they agree that trends observed over the last past century are probably due to human activity. But climate change is considered only the third most serious issue facing the world by the world's population, behind international terrorism and poverty, hunger and the lack of drinking water, according to YouGov research.

None of us want to grow up in a world where dangerous bushfires and crippling droughts are normal, where we struggle through extreme heatwaves, and where young people lose their homes to sea level rise.

We are often told to count our blessings. We feel lucky to live in such caring communities. But, when we think of all our blessings, it also makes us want to cry. The idea that our children and grandchildren may not get to experience the beautiful world that we live in, is one of the saddest things we can think of.

Although we love school and learning, we love our family, friends and community more. And we will do anything to ensure all of us have a safe planet to live on. So, we are striking from school to save our future, and the futures of the people we love and those not yet with us.

#justhumanthings (@ywspeakout)

"We might not be able to vote, but we have rights. We have a right to a future." Words from an 8 year old.

🌏🌏🌏🌏🌏🌏🌏🌏🌏🌏🌏🌏🌏 #schoolstrike4climate #schoolstrike #climatechange #climatechaos #actnow #voicesofyouth #voicesofchildren . pic.twitter.com/fOHVeedj9N

Rising sea levels – another outcome of global warming – increase the risk of coastal flooding, and could cause population displacement. More than half of the world's population now lives within 60 kilometres of shorelines. Floods can directly cause injury and death, and increase risks of infection from water and vector-borne diseases. Population displacement could increase tensions and potentially the risks of conflict.

And we have a message for our politicians: it’s time to listen to us. You cannot continue pretending we are not here, and that climate change is OK. Because we are here. The climate crisis is here, and it is destroying our planet. People’s lives and livelihoods are on the line. We have trusted you to do what is in the best interest of our country, and it is clear to us that you aren’t doing enough.

At the end of November, we are going on strike together with kids from across Australia to get our voices heard. We’re giving up our education for a day to learn more about climate change, experience how to make a difference, and demand our politicians take urgent action on the most important issue of our time.

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