On March 15, strike action was taken by over 30,000 students in Melbourne calling for political action on climate change. They were joined by more than 150,000 people Australia-wide and over one million worldwide. The students took a day out from school to make their collective voice heard, saying not enough is being done to keep global temperature increases below 1.5 degrees Celsius, the point at which science tells us runaway climate change is the most likely outcome.
My friends and I marched with our children. We started as a group of five and ended up filling a 45-seater bus travelling to Melbourne from the Bass Coast. We arrived at Southern Cross Station around 10.30am, as did hundreds of others from regional Victoria and we gathered together before marching up Collins Street to Treasury. An observer may have assumed that we co-ordinated our arrivals, but it was simply chance driven by a common purpose.
As we marched along the footpath bystanders smiled, waved, took photos, some beeped horns and cheered, some showed strong emotion, even tears. Yet others felt compelled to shout aggressively “You kids should be in school!” Before I could express my outrage, the students were quick to respond, holding high their banners with great catchphrases like “System-wide change, not apathy”, “Denial is not a policy” and chanting “Coal don’t dig it, leave it in the ground, it’s time to get with it”.
The enthusiasm and energy in the chanting was infectious and my friends and I were soon in full voice, in solidarity with these young leaders as we marched to the top end of town. We were 500 strong marching up Collins Street, arriving at Treasury to loud applause by a crowd that covered the steps and spilled across the entire intersection of Collins and Spring Streets. Within 30 minutes we were at least 30,000 strong. Other estimates had us at 40,000.
“The whole day left me empowered and hopeful. Surely a change will happen soon.” Isabel Rooks
“I’m so proud of the number of people who came to support climate action.” Makaela Batty
“I feel like we are not being listened to by the politicians and they forget that we will be voting soon.” Harriet Fallaw
“It’s fallen on us to do something. I came home from the strike feeling totally inspired because it is the younger generations taking action.” Tarkyn Dann
Speaker after young speaker called out the inaction of our leaders in Canberra and called on them to create policies that would lead to meaningful action on reducing emissions and keeping global temperature increases below 1.50C. I couldn’t help but feel that the power of these young people and all those they had inspired to turn up would lead to more significant change than anything governments are likely to achieve.
After the rally we discussed the day and how we could keep up the momentum of change. Some of our students are making a short video to show at a public event, some are writing articles for the local papers, others will tell their friends and invite them to attend the next strike action, maybe locally. (to be continued)
Full version in the Bass Coast Post here. Dr Moragh Mackay is a resident of Bass and can be contacted here.