Thousands of school children in the United Kingdom have walked out of class as part of a coordinated strike to protest about the global lack of action on climate change.
Youngsters in Brighton, Oxford, Bristol and Sheffield were among those in 60 towns and cities who downed textbooks to demand that adults do something about what they called a mounting ecological crisis. More than 1,000 students also gathered at Parliament Square in London.
“We’re running out of time for meaningful change and that’s why we’re seeing young people around the world rising up to hold their governments to account on their dismal climate records,” said Anna Taylor, of the UK Student Climate Network, which coordinated the strikes. “Unless we take positive action, the future’s looking bleak for those of us that have grown up in an era defined by climate change.”
At one protest outside the Cambridgeshire County Council’s offices, a demonstrator led chants of “Whose future? Our future” and “Hey, ho, fossil fuels have got to go”.
Jasper Giles, a six-year-old pupil at University of Cambridge Primary School, attended the protest with his mother, Alissia Roberts.
She said: “I think it’s worth taking a day off school to show support for this movement, I think it’s really important and it will gather momentum.”
Ten-year-old Zachary Hird, a pupil at Cambridge’s Newnham Croft Primary School, was at the protest with his mother Diane Hird.
He said: “We don’t want climate change and people just have to change their ways as we don’t want the world as it is right now. “We just want to make people aware of it. We were talking about it in our class so we just came along.”
Similar walkouts have previously been held in countries including Belgium and Australia, but it is thought this is the first ever nationally-coordinated strike, on any issue, by children in the UK.
The activists are calling on the government to declare an ecological emergency, properly communicate the severity of the crisis and make the environment an educational priority in schools. They also want recognition that young people have the biggest stake in the future and, as such, should be involved in policy making. They want the voting age lowered to 16.
The latest UN report on climate changed, published in October, warned there were just 12 years left to avoid the worst effects of global warming, which it said would include record-breaking droughts and rising oceans.