You might have heard about the school climate strikes that happened this year in March and September, where more than 3 million young people walked out of schools, universities and workplaces across 125 countries to call on governments to act against climate change.
In Australia alone, 350,000 Australians went on strike on September 20th, including primary, high school and university students, as well as employees from more than 1500 businesses.
What’s the School Strike for Climate Movement?
With climate change continuing to be debated on a national and global level, an increasing number of people are voicing their opinions and concerns, including young people. The most noticeable way young people have called for action against climate change has been through the School Strike for Climate movement.
The movement kicked off in August 2018, after Greta Thunberg sat on her own outside Swedish parliament, refusing to attend school for three weeks to draw attention to the climate crisis in the lead-up to Sweden’s general election. From this came the Fridays for Future movement, where Thunberg and other students across the world continued to strike outside town halls every Friday.
Following on from the strike in March, the Week for Future - a week of global strikes - has just taken place from September 20 to 27. Kicking off with a youth-led international strike on the 20th (in the lead-up to the UN Climate Summit just three days later), many major institutions - from the Uniting Church to unions and universities - shared their support for the strike and have encouraged their staff to take part. Other highlights of the week included World Clean Up Day on the 21st and the first General Strike for Climate on Friday, September 27. The General Strike saw businesses and individuals alike taking part in a global walkout. The strikes had three demands for governments across the world: no new coal, oil and gas; an adoption of 100% renewables by 2030; and investment in renewables and other industries to enable workers and communities to transition away from fossil fuels.
How Can We Help?
There are lots of ways to support young climate activists - whether that means turning up to protest, petitioning politicians to take action or simply spreading the word - we can combat climate change and work towards a more sustainable world for future generations. But whatever we do, we (adults) need to take responsibility for our impact on the environment on an individual and community level.
Many of us are already switching from disposable to reusable products and there are even more ways we can reduce our carbon emissions on a daily basis. Research has found that adopting more sustainable behaviours can actually be really effective, especially since the effect of cutting out high-emissions activities can be faster and more widespread than changes in policies and infrastructure.
Simple things to do, such as recycling, insulating your home, washing clothes in cold water and letting them hang-dry, and replacing your car with a hybrid (once you’ve gotten the most out of your current car) can have a moderate impact on your carbon emissions. Particularly in Australia, using an electric car (or no car at all) and switching from a carbon-based energy grid to green energy have been found to have a high impact on emissions.
Other ways to significantly reduce your carbon emissions include having fewer children, avoiding air travel, and switching to a plant-based diet. While these choices can be difficult to make, adopting a slightly more uncomfortable lifestyle to reduce our emissions can enable investment and development in zero-emissions technology.
Individual action helps, but we can’t do it alone
While our individual actions can have a significant impact on reducing emissions, we also need to hold companies responsible for their impacts on the environment. According to the 2017 Carbon Majors report, 100 fossil-fuel producers - including private companies and state producers - are responsible for 71% of the world’s industrial greenhouse gas emissions.
On top of that, we need to show government bodies that climate change is an important issue that needs to be acted on immediately. With continued increases in Australia’s emissions over the last three years and the ban on fracking in South Australia being lifted last year, it’s no wonder that officials from the UN Climate Summit have said that we have a denialist government when it comes to climate change.
Since August, we’ve also seen the Queensland State Government extinguish native title rights on 1385 hectares of land where part of the Adani mine is set to be built - including the area that Wangan and Jangalingou people occupy and use for ceremonial purposes - meaning that Wangan and Jangalingou protesters could be forcibly removed from their traditional lands for trespassing. And, the national government has promised billions of dollars in subsidies and tax concessions over the next 30 years, with a report conducted by the Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis claiming that the thermal coal mine would be “unbankable and unviable” without it.
While it can be easy to feel discouraged, there are people in power fighting against climate change. When elections come around, you can support these politicians by ensuring they stay in office and by voting in others that also share your views. In the meantime though, you can contact your local MP to ask them to support climate-change initiatives, and you can petition your local council to declare a climate emergency (if they haven’t already).
With young people at the forefront of the fight against climate change, it’s up to us to support them and use our responsibility as adults to ensure that they have a future.
If you want to learn more about youth activists:
Check out what went on at the UN Youth Climate Summit and the young activists who attended
Find out what young Aussies have to say about climate change here
Learn more about the School Strike 4 Climate movement
To find out what you can do to help student climate activists:
Volunteer at, donate to, or organise a clean-up event near you here
Support movements such as Take3, Rebellion Earth
Check out this comprehensive list of ways to reduce your carbon footprint
Sign petitions (including this one petitioning the House of Representatives to declare a climate emergency)
Find out what you can do to protest Adani here
Click here to find contact details for your local MP and here to ask your MPs to support the Climate and Health Alliance’s National Strategy on Climate, Health and Well-being