CALL FOR ACTION, NOT HOPE: An interview with the UK Students Climate Network

For too long, we have been stuck thinking about the debate over whether climate change is real or not. Well, for us here at DISS, we do not have time to argue or question its validity – we realise we have to act quickly.

We have received several warnings about the impact of our living conditions on this planet, the latest being in October 2018: the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said we need to enact measures to limit global warming within the next 12 years. Unfortunately, we don’t seem to be listening, and even if we are listening, we do not seem to follow through with the course of action which is being suggested to us.

The Students Climate Network are no longer waiting for their parents and the generation before them to solve this issue, they are taking matters into their own hands and telling us to not just listen but to act fast. Organising internationally and calling for regular protest and action on this issue, they embody a spirit which we hope can inspire people to think about their own impact and responsibility to solve an issue that we as a human race have created.

Speaking to the UK group, they are passionate and dedicated to this issue, in which often it is not just what you do that matters, but also how you inspire others to do, which is of most importance.  

The Students Climate Network protest in London this weekend

Young people are the future of the world. How do we engage more young people to care about these issues?

Beth Irving, Cardiff [B]:

I think the national curriculum should be more focused on these issues in a way that is relevant. When the knowledge is there, engagement follows, because this is a problem that we cannot ignore. The real question is why do we need to engage young people? It’s because we cannot trust adults to prioritise the planet’s future over blind economic progress. It’s not rocket science that it needs to change. Perhaps young people do need to be educated on this but I’d reject the idea that we are not engaged – the strikes are proof of this. The quickest action will be taken if adults are also engaged.”

Rosie Smart-Knight, 17, Cornwall [R]:

“The fact that the #Fridaysforfuture movement has taken off so quickly just goes to show how much young people do care and are passionate about the climate, because ultimately its their future which is at stake. However, if young people are unaware of the issue, or their ability to make a difference its much harder for them to engage with the issues, particularly if they don’t know that there is one! For this reason we are demanding that the government amends the national curriculum to ensure that young people are educated on the issues at hand. As well as demanding that the government lowers the voting age to 16 to allow young people to feel like their voice has influence and impact. Ultimately the strikes are to give the youth a voice and a platform upon which they can demand that their future is safe guarded.”

Sophie, 17, Devon [S]:

Through education that goes beyond the limits of traditional textbook learning. Getting kids out into the natural environment combined with a serious treatment of climate change in the curriculum will help the youth of today to understand what a fragile state nature is in and why they should be fighting to protect it. 

Often, adults say that we can protest but we don’t understand what to do in power. What’s one thing you would do if you were in power?

B: I would switch to a fossil free economy. We cannot hope to make change if we continue as slaves to these huge corporations that are known both for human rights abuses and ecological crimes. 

R: I would listen to those with the education. We are told that our education is our greatest tool, and yet those with the education are ignored with preference instead given to multinationals, many of whom have vested interest in industries such as oil and coal. The UN has given us 12 years to avoid catastrophic climate change, we cannot bury our heads in the sand and wait for another government to take unpopular action, because otherwise there will come a time when unpopular change will happen to us and we will be unable to stop it.

S: Dictate that at least 80% of energy supplies by the national grid must come from renewable energy sources and work with energy companies on this through taxation if failing to meet requirements.

What is the simplest thing we can all do to help this issue?  

B: Avoid fossil fuels. Stop producing those emissions and we can begin to start tackling other issues such as air pollution, plastic in the oceans and food security.

On a personal level, individual actions can also have an impact such as reducing your emissions, eating plant-based, not flying or going zero waste. However, these won’t work quick enough on their own so actions needs to be taken by those in power.

R: There is no one single answer to solve the climate crisis, that is why its so difficult to tackle it. As individuals we can have a plant based diet and avoid fossil fuels etc. but until unified governmental action is taken across the globe it is unlikely to be enough. Considering the fact that just 100 companies are responsible for 70% of C02 emissions, perhaps the most important thing we can do is demand that our government makes immediate and drastic changes.

S: Express a desire for the government to declare a carbon emergency and make real steps towards going carbon neutral by at least 2030 preferable sooner.

If we don’t change our rate of consumption, we will consume our carbon budget within 20 years

This is an international issue and you are internationally connected, how important is this? Tell us about your plans like #FridaysForFuture?

B: On the 15th March, we hope to launch a worldwide strike. This will involve participation from the countries already involved with the #FridaysForFuture movement, as well as first time strikers.

It is also important to be aware that these movements are happening mainly over the western world, because the huge responsibility of these countries is so disproportionate to the actions they are taking. Only once we have these governments on board can we hope to appeal to governments in developing countries to focus their development around sustainability. 

R: Following the strike on Friday, there is another global one on March 15th, which is happening all over the world, and will hopefully send the biggest message yet to our government that drastic action must be taken. Individuals continue to strike every Friday to demand climate action, and hopefully this week’s strike will shed light on the frustration of the worlds youth and make our leaders sit up and take action.

S: Fridays for Future is important not just for giving our silencers planet a voice, but sharing that voice beyond our borders. Despite Brexit and increased national tensions, I’ve been speaking to students from Sweden and Germany thanks to Fridays for Future. We all share the same drive to protect our planet and this love and commitment and also anxiety surpasses the actions of our elders who fracture international relations.

#FridaysforFuture is a peoples movement following the call from @GretaThunberg to school strike.

Are you hopeful, and what gives you hope in such a dire situation? 

B: At this point we don’t need hope: we need action. Yes, it is important to be hopeful for the future but this will get us nowhere in real terms. Hope comes from movements such as this, it comes from determination and ultimately it comes from action. Take personal action and take collective action and then together we can achieve the system change required.

R: I am hopeful, however like Greta Thunberg said, “I don’t want your hope” – it is not hope that will allow us to survive this, it is action. Drastic and immediate action. The huge number of students and young people that are demanding change gives me hope, however the fact that many institutions and governments continue to overlook the issue is unacceptable and needs to be addressed.

S: I have found that true hope only exists in action, when you are doing something to make the world just a little bit better. Else the bleakness and fear of everything collapsing can really build up around you.

What’s one life advice you would give to someone reading this who wants to be involved in activism?

B: Just do it! It has such a bigger impact than you’ll imagine. But also, be strong and be sure in yourself enough to be able to defend your actions to people against you.

R: Do it! Get involved and tell people about what you’re doing, chances are they want to be involved too and have been too scared to do it on their own. We are living in a time of change and now is our chance to stand up and ensure that the future of all species and generations to come is protected. We only have one planet, and now is our chance to fight for its protection. If we manage to succeed, you wont want to look back and regret not taking part.

S: Find one person. That one person will know someone else. Soon, there will be ten of you who want to protest. Then you can have a social media site. Start small – like the tiny insects which form the foundations of the ecosystem and the snowflakes which form the storm.

words and interview by Ayo Fagbemi

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