Why I’m joining the Youth Strike 4 Climate

Photo credit, Jo Damsell

On Friday 20th September, students from around the World will be shunning their classrooms, textbooks and smart boards and taking to the streets to demand action on the climate emergency.

Known variously as Fridays for the Future and Youth Strike 4 Climate, the movement started with one individual, Greta Thunberg, sitting alone outside the Swedish parliament one year ago.  Today it involves over a million young people and adults from more than 100 countries.  The strikes have drawn in other groups such as Extinction Rebellion, and the focus has broadened to embrace the wider ecological catastrophe facing the planet.

Strike action of any sort inevitably causes some disruption and is always controversial, especially if it entails distracting students from their important studies.  So why would a Wildlife Trust be supporting it?  Here are three reasons why I believe we should show solidarity with the Youth Strike 4 Climate.

First, this is the most serious threat to humanity and the planet that we know of. Think of the way Brexit has paralysed our politics and split the country.  Important though it is, Brexit won’t kill anyone. A no-deal may harm the economy, but we won’t all lose our jobs and our homes.  Not so with the climate and environmental crises.  They could make whole areas of the planet uninhabitable, create millions of climate refugees and wipe out hundreds of thousands of species.  Blows to the economy are usually reversible.  Extinction and loss of human life is not.

The impacts of these crises will fall disproportionately on the young

Secondly, governments around the World  aren’t listening.  The arguments for climate change have been made for more than 30 years. The reports of the IPCC are the most comprehensive peer reviewed scientific works anywhere, and they present an unequivocal picture of the scale of the threat and the consequences of inaction.  The evidence is screaming at us from the state of our coral reefs, the forest fires and the melting ice caps.  But the sad truth is that an encyclopaedia of evidence, umpteen conferences and decades of reasoned approaches to politicians have made little difference, and we continue to career ever faster down a trajectory of planetary self-destruction.  We need a different approach.

Thirdly, the impacts of these crises will fall disproportionately on the young.  Most political decisions are taken by people of my generation and not by young people.  We, and those before us, have improved our standard of living at the expense of the natural world, albeit not always deliberately.  I am fortunate enough to have dived on the Great Barrier Reef and trekked through pristine rainforest.  Will people who are at school now have the chance to do this?   The younger generation and those that follow stand to suffer the consequences of our inaction. 

The millions expected to take part in strikes across the globe aren’t doing so for better pay or condition for themselves.  These are people concerned about the state of our planet and all its inhabitants, human or other.  They need a proper voice, and if governments won’t listen to reason, they have little alternative but to try other routes. 

So, I and several of my colleagues will be joining the Youth Strike for Climate on Friday  20th  September.  We will not be engaging in civil disobedience, you won’t see us branded in Devon Wildlife Trust clothes and we aren’t seeking publicity.  But be there we will, because there are times when we have to say – enough talk, enough empty promises, enough tinkering.  We need real action, we need it across every part of our economy and society, and we need it now.

Harry Barton, Chief Executive, Devon Wildlife Trust