Last Friday students all across Australia walked out of school to strike against the government’s inaction on climate change. Thousands attended protests held in at least 30 cities and towns.
These protests happened alongside breaking news that the proposed Adani coal mine in Queensland will likely go ahead, despite the large public backlash. Neither major party is willing to stop it.
The Australian students were inspired by Swedish student Greta Thunberg, who skips classes every Friday to protest outside her parliament in Stockholm.
Thunberg calls on young people to join her. She wrote in The Guardian: “Sit outside your parliament or local government wherever you are and demand that they get on track to keep the world below 1.5 degrees [of warming].”
Young people will live to face the most dire consequences of climate change. They will be punished for the lack of action of current governments around the world.
The completely out-of-touch Liberal prime minister Scott Morrison attacked the students’ plans before the protests. He stated that he wanted “less activism in schools” and that he could not support “schools being turned into parliaments.”
However as many of the students pointed out if governments around the world were actually doing something substantial to fight climate change, then those protesting would not have needed to strike.
Morrison’s comments showed how removed he and the rest of his government are from the general population. He made it clear that they do not take the concerns of young people seriously.
This only served to rightfully embolden many of the students, as well as those who support them. Many of the signs held up by protestors directly criticised the incompetence of the government and pointed out the hypocrisy in Morrison’s statement.
One of the more popular signs displayed on the TV news read: “We’ll be less activist if you’ll be less shit”.
Morrison claimed that his government takes climate change seriously and that they are taking action on it. But an emissions gap report released by the United Nations showed that Australia had made “no improvements” in climate policy since last year.
The truth is that capitalism blocks action on climate change. Capitalism is based on private ownership of the world’s industries, and production for profit, including the energy industry.
Powerful cliques of the super-rich still have billions of dollars tied up in fossil fuels. They are fighting to keep their “assets” profitable as long as possible. And there is still a large amount of money to be made in coal and other environmentally destructive industries so capitalists will keep investing in them.
The wealth controlled by capitalist investors and by the energy industry needs to be taken under public control. Then we can make sure it is used to build a clean energy future.
The problem is that we can’t control what we don’t own. Governments have failed to make capitalists invest appropriately in clean energy. Instead of the profit driven capitalist system we need public ownership and a democratically decided investment plan to shift immediately to renewable energy and sustainable production.
The students who participated in this national walk out have sent a clear message to the government. They won’t let their future be ruined by profit-mad capitalists and their cronies in government.
This is potentially only the beginning of a campaign, not the end. To fight climate change, we need more walkouts like this. But we also need to involve wider layers of society, including workers.
Only through continued organisation of workplaces, schools and communities, along with clear demands to tackle climate change, can we build a serious and successful movement.
It is clear that the problems we face are caused by the system of capitalism, and this system must be challenged to actually address the root cause of inaction before it is too late.
Greta Thunberg summarised what is needed in the fight against climate change, and against the government’s inaction on this issue, when she said: “We can no longer save the world by playing by the rules because the rules have to be changed.”
By Kai Perry