November and December 2018 saw thousands of school students across the country walk off the classroom floor and strike in protest against climate change. Adani, the coal mining corporation eyeing the Galilee Basin in Northern Queensland for a mega-mine, were a particular target of the students’ anger. They also took aim at politicians “failing to stop the climate crisis”.
Students marched across Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. They took to the streets in response to the abject failure of the political class to stop companies like Adani, protect the environment and tackle climate change. But it’s not just young people getting involved. The following Saturday saw thousands follow their lead and march in Brisbane against Adani’s announcement that they will “self-fund” their proposed mine. Many parents spoke publicly about their support for the children and young people making a stand.
It wasn’t just the big cities that saw young people take to the streets. Even in small towns like Murwillumbah, in north-eastern New South Wales, around 40 school students marched alongside parents and teachers to their local council chambers.
Kiara McCarthy, a local young person on the demonstration, said that she was “marching against climate change so that I can do the things in life I want to do without fear of climate change.” Another young protestor in Brisbane suggested that perhaps it was time for prime minister Scott Morrison to go back to school to learn about the problem. Others spoke of the “evil corporations” responsible for climate change and environmental destruction.
Unsurprisingly Scott Morrison refused to support the protestors. Resources Minister Matt Canavan showed himself even more in need of an education. He suggested that young people should be more interested in drilling and mining for fossil fuels than a future free of climate catastrophe. The irony is that it is the failure of these politicians to tackle climate change which has spurred young people. This is clearly lost on the likes of Morrison and Canavan.
For young people, climate change is so much more than just another political issue. While most recognise the effects of climate change being experienced globally, school students may begin to see the truly catastrophic effects before they’re even eligible to vote. They will be expected to live with these effects for their entire adult lives. It’s little wonder then that they have taken to the streets to make their voices heard.
It appears that this was not just a one-off either. Meetings are already being held in many parts of the country to organise for the “BIG School Strike for Climate” on March 15. Young people are clearly enraged by the failure of the political and billionaire corporate class to come to grips with climate change and they’re taking things into their own hands. However, they can’t be expected to go it alone.
Parents and teachers have already shown their support. It’s time now for others to stand up and be counted. Socialists, workers and the trade unions must now support young people in their fight for our future. If even a handful of the large unions called a half-day strike to support the planned action on March 15 the government could be shaken and Adani could be stopped in its tracks.
Young people are clear in their goals: halt fossil fuel extraction and move to renewable energy production. The capitalist system has shown time and again its inability to provide any solutions to climate change. A democratic, socialist, planned economy could address the problem by taking the vast wealth and resources out of the hands of the tiny minority of self-interested billionaires and investing it in renewable energy research and production.
Under such a system the transition to a fossil fuel free future can be achieved in a matter of years, creating thousands of jobs in the process and leading the world in the fight to provide young people with a real future.
By Eóin Dawson