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School students on climate strike processed through the town centre led by a drumming band.

School students on climate strike processed through the town centre led by a drumming band.

Schoolkids gather to demand action on climate change

School students from Hastings and beyond gathered in the town centre on Friday to demand, together with their peers worldwide, urgent and effective action by those in power to combat climate change. Nick Terdre sampled the atmosphere.

The subject was serious enough, but the mood of the crowd was good-natured and boisterous. At a rough count, there must have been about 100 there, for the most part young people who would otherwise have been in school or college, plus a few parents with babes in buggies and toddlers.

In apt symbolism local politicos – in the shape of council leader Peter Chowney and Hastings Green Party spokesperson Julia Hilton – were left bringing up the rear. This was a day for young people to take the lead.

Headed by a handful of drummers, the gathering moved along the pedestrian area from the coffee shops beside Havelock Road up Pelham Street, through the underpass beneath Albert Road to Breeds Place, then turned round and came back again.

It stopped on the way to allow a couple of tinier demonstrators – surely they can only have been primary school pupils – to issue a rallying cry, then continued back to the coffee shop area where it dissolved into groups chatting animatedly together.

From the mouths of babes and sucklings: "Schools have to be Parl;iament of Parliament is a schoolyard."

From the mouths of babes and sucklings: “Schools have to be Parliament if Parliament is a schoolyard.”

Government inaction

HOT took the opportunity to talk to a group of 13 and 14-year-olds. “We are here today due to government inaction towards climate change,” one of their number said. “And because of how little the government is doing, and we’ve been asking it for ages.

“And there’s only 12 years until there’s no coming back, which is not a long time to do something about it, so we need some action now.” It was 12 years last year when the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sounded the alarm on how time is fast running out for the world to take effective action against global warming, so now the time for action must be down to 11 years.

“The government should invest more in renewable energy and give up fossil fuel, it’s not just all about Brexit, they need to do a lot more, we need action now,” the speaker continued.

Since last month, when the first schoolkids’ climate change strike was held in Hastings, there’s certainly been an improvement in the number of people attending, the group agreed, which they attributed to better publicity. They were also pleased to find that everyone present was very interested and passionate about the issue.

Meanwhile close to the Houses of Parliament...

Meanwhile close to the Houses of Parliament…

Not alone

The Hastings protestors were not alone – across the UK demonstrations took place in 100 towns and cities, including around the Houses of Parliament. And across the world, reports say, the global movement prompted more than 2,000 events in 125 countries.

In Stockholm hundreds gathered to hear 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, whose solitary action sparked the movement. “We have been born into this world, and we have to live with this crisis, and our children and our grandchildren,” she said. “We are facing the greatest existential crisis humanity has ever faced. And yet it has been ignored. You who have ignored it know who you are.”

More astute politicians have accepted the criticism and promised to do better. The environment minister Michael Gove, in a video message with other Conservative MPs, told protestors, “Collective action of the kind you’re championing can make a difference, and a profound one.

“Together we can beat climate change. It will require us to change the way in which our energy is generated, change the way in which our homes are built, change the way in which our land is managed and farming operates – but that change is absolutely necessary.”

Thus Mr Gove talked the talk, but young protestors would do well to monitor closely his and his government colleagues’ efforts to walk the walk – politicians are known to be slippery customers, and vulnerable to the lobbying of powerful commercial forces.

Not all grown-ups have been so encouraging. The head of an educational body told the Today programme on Friday how concerned she was at the school strikers losing valuable learning time – but what more practical educational experience could they have than coming together with their peers to help save the world from disaster?

And back in Hastings...

And back in Hastings…

Nick Terdre asks if the young people he spoke can get in touch with him.

Posted 16:42 Monday, Mar 18, 2019 In: Campaigns

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