By Laurie Goering
LONDON – Saying adults were not doing enough to deal with increasingly serious threats from climate change, thousands of school children across Britain missed classes and packed protests Friday, demanding faster action to protect their future.
“We will go back to school when you make the climate cool,” read one homemade sign in London’s Parliament Square – one of more than 60 protest locations across the country, organisers of the Youth 4 Climate strike said.
Young protesters – some in their school uniforms – whistled, chanted, waved signs and for a time blocked traffic outside Parliament, climbing on top of a red doubledecker tourist bus to demand, “Change! Now!”.
Orla de Wardener, 10, said she had been inspired by the example of Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old student whose regular Friday protests outside Sweden’s parliament have led to a spreading international school strike movement.
After reading about Thunberg in a children’s science magazine, “I was totally enthralled with her. She’s amazing,” said de Wardener, a student at Weston Park Primary School near Finsbury Park in north London.
Adults, she said, do not act on climate change because “they’re involved with their money and their work. They don’t care,” said de Wardener, who sported a polar bear hat and a hand-coloured sign reading, “Your failure, our future”.
Politicians, she said, “have had their life. They don’t see much point in fighting for the future”.
Orla de Wardener, 10, and Iris Adderley, 9, of Weston Park Primary School in London wear animal hats and carry signs at a youth climate protest in London’s Parliament Square, February 15, 2019. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Laurie Goering
Her classmate, 9-year-old Iris Adderley, said she was worried about the quickening pace of extinctions in nature, and the risks of sea level rise, including flooding in Britain.
“Adults just don’t think about it enough,” she said.
Nora Mackay, 15, a student from south London, said her school’s administration had discouraged students from attending the protest, “but everyone is here anyway”, she said.
“My parents said go on the march. The future of the world is more important than one day of school,” she said, standing with dozens of placard-waving classmates in the square.
‘FAILING OUR RESPONSIBILITY’
Christiana Figueres, who was U.N. climate chief when the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change was agreed, said she hoped politicians would heed the “deeply moving voice of youth and schoolchildren, who are so worried about their future”.
That children feel they need to strike to draw attention to the problem “is a sign we are failing in our responsibility to protect them from the worsening impacts of climate change,” she said.
John Sauven, the executive director of Greenpeace UK, said students were taking action because “young people know their lives are going to be changed dramatically by the impacts of climate change”.
“The risks that older people hope they might dodge are the problems the young will inherit,” he warned in a press release. “While we’re failing to deliver the changes young people need, we can hardly blame them for taking action themselves.” Thomson Reuters Foundation