By Luke Sullivan / Environment / / 0 Comments

On a Crisp February morning there was a feeling of anticipation in the air, Quite rare for a Friday morning but there was a feeling of hope.  I noticed the amount of School Children heading towards the clock tower with a sense of grim determination; a sentiment I also shared. But what drew us to the historic clock tower in Whitefriars? A brave young Swedish activist called Great Thunberg.  This young woman has done more for environmental awareness than anyone in my lifetime.  Hundreds of young activists were standing around patiently waiting for their first opportunity to have a voice and share a message we should all support.

I stood there looking on them with a sense of pride and contentment in the next generation that we are creating a society for.  This is a generation that will not be cowed, that will stand up respectfully and demand their voices are heard.  Future leaders and community pillars asking their council to take note of their concerns for the future.

But are they being listened to?  Within the Canterbury district I fear not.  At last nights annual budget meeting Counciilor Simon Cook (Head of Canterbury City Council) laid out his plans for a Canterbury to be proud of.  I was disappointed that there was not one mention of climate change, Councillor Alan Baldock questioned the need for a carpark which would excacerbate the already toxic levels of pollution and pointed out that cyclepaths would be more suitable.  Cllr Cooks response? There is no money in cycle paths. Is our society so founded in Capitalism that we would willingly hedge our childrens futures against a pound in our pocket?

I was happy to see that the Environment Agency called a halt to a rushed plan for a Park and Ride in Wincheap that would encroach on beautiful marshland in Thannington that is a wonderful habitat to wildlife and a draw for tourism. It seems that our children are ahead of us in concern for this planet, placards such as ‘there is no PLANet B’, ‘Its OUR future’ & ‘Respect your Mother’ really hit home.

I will leave you to read the wisdom of a 16 year old from Sweden.

‘Adults keep saying: “We owe it to the young people to give them hope.” But I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.’

On Friday, myself, some of my friends, and many, many others went on strike from our education. We, the youth, have decided enough is enough, and it is time to ask our government to do more. For so long, the lie has been pushed onto us that climate change is solely a matter of individual responsibility, but now, for us it is time to push back against this lie and demand action on climate change. Whilst making individual changes is important, what is needed is now more systemic changes.

The four key demands of our strike were that:

  1. the government should declare a “climate emergency”
  2. it [the government] should also inform the public about the seriousness of the situation
  3. national curriculum should be reformed to include “the ecological crisis”
  4. The age of voting should be lowered to 16 so younger people can be involved in decision-making around environmental issues.

For me, Friday filled me with hope about the future. To me, it proved that the will to change is here, and it is not going away. Seeing so many people on the streets of Canterbury, from ages as young as five, through to older students over 25, along with parents and grandparents supporting us proved to me that we are not asleep to these issues and that together, we do have the power to force change. The chants were loud and the mood was high, the passion of each individual out was clear. We filled the streets of Canterbury with noise and placards, we were filmed stunned onlookers. In Canterbury, we were a few hundred strong, across the UK, there were an estimated 15,000 young people out. I found myself overcome with emotion on Friday, I felt truly hopeful about the drive of my generation. I felt joyous that so many shared my passion for our planet. To me, it felt like a true turning point. I hope these marches continue, and I pray they only
increase in fervour and number.