Walkouts were set to hit schools across Britain this Friday as students strike for climate justice.
Action was planned in at least 38 towns and cities from Fort William to Swansea.
It’s part of the worldwide #FridaysForFuture protests that have seen students organise walkouts to demand urgent action on climate change.
It follows a series of reports released this week showing the planet’s insect population has plummeted—and that climate change threatens a global systemic collapse.
Organised under the banner of Youth Strike for Climate, this week’s strike has four main demands.
It wants the government to declare a climate emergency and include information about climate change as part of national curriculum.
It demands that the government publicises the severity of the climate change crisis, brings the voting age down to 16 and listens to young people.
Murray Robinson, a 15 year old student in Scarborough, said he would strike with members of his school eco club.
He told Socialist Worker he’s taking action “because we’re the generation that’s going to have to look after the world.” He added that imminent climate chaos left him “scared”.
“I’m only 15 and I’m told climate change will be out of our hands in 11 years,” he said.
Sixth form students at Fulford School in York used the Snapchat messenger app to organise their strike with students from a nearby school.
Ewan Williamson told Socialist Worker there was “excitement” about the walkout and he was planning to spend this week convincing others to join in.
“I’m glad it’s a strike, and not a normal demonstration. It’s showing the government it’s important to school students, and it’s showing directly that we’re upset and angry,” he said.
The school climate strikes movement was unleashed by 16 year old Greta Thurnberg, who began staging long protests outside the Swedish parliament in August last year.
The #FridaysForFuture campaign inspired by Greta has since gone global, with big student-led campaigns in Australia, Belgium and Germany.
This week’s strike is set to be the first large-scale action in Britain.
Ewan said there’s a widespread level of agreement among students at his school.
“Among our generation, you don’t have to talk about it for it to be agreed,” he said.
And he added that people on the Snapchat group have “come to it from a range of different levels. Some are already really involved, and some are just passionate and know it’s a problem.”
The climate strikes come at a time when groups such as Extinction Rebellion have hit the headlines for their protests.
Murray is involved in Extinction Rebellion, and said his “whole family tries to keep it as environmentally friendly as possible”.
“We try to reduce single use plastic. But that’s not enough. We need more people to get involved. It’s all well and good one family doing it, but we need more pressure,” he said.
Friday’s action will need to be part of a much wider movement that can seriously tackle catastrophic climate change.
Action on climate change cannot remain as just a discussion in academic papers or between insincere political leaders. It must happen soon, and on a systematic basis, to avoid the worst case scenario.
Murray said, “One thing we do know is sea levels are rising, coastal towns like Scarborough will be under water—and that’s only one of the things that could happen.”
Ewan agrees with Murray about the scale of the problem. “We’re really kind of on a knife edge about what could happen and how bad it could be,” he said.
He said that, because most of the effects of climate change “aren’t tangible yet”, people can feel helpless.
“You feel helpless, that’s why you’ve got to get out there. If people feel they’re part of something bigger, they will get interested in joining in.”
The #FridaysForFuture movement is a cry of rage by a generation growing up in an increasingly unsafe and desperate world.
Its focus on collective action pulls away from solutions that focus on individual lifestyle choices.
And it points directly at who is to blame for the impending climate catastrophe—the fossil fuel bosses polluting our planet and the politicians allowing them to.
All socialists should think about how they can support the students fighting for a better future.
Bugs face a global wipeout
The entire insect population of the planet is facing extinction.
That’s the conclusion of Francisco Sanchez-Bayo, author of a ground-breaking piece of new research on insect population decline released on Monday of this week.
The report found that climate change will have catastrophic impacts on “the planet’s ecosystems and for the survival of mankind”.
And it said that “insects as a whole will go down the path of extinction in a few decades”.
This would have dramatic knock-on effects for animals and human food production. Researchers point to rising temperatures, widespread use of insecticides and intensive agricultural farming for the decline.
And on Tuesday, a report from the IPPR think tank said “environmental breakdown could trigger catastrophic breakdown of human systems”. It said this could see “economic, social and political shocks cascade through a globally linked system”.
The report examined the combined effect of changes to weather systems, loss of ecosystems and the damage caused by increasing storms and droughts.
This would cause a “collapse of key social and economic systems, at local and potentially even global levels”.
This is not something that’s centuries away—the effects are being felt right now. All the evidence points to floods, wildfires and extreme temperature events dramatically increasing.
The research underlines what is already known—that climate change poses a fundamental threat to human existence.
It will take a huge and radical challenge to the system to address this global crisis.