Students all over the country are readily signing up in their thousands to a cause that affects them far more than any other group in society – the future of our environment.
On March 15 students were encouraged to be part of a nationwide strike, parking classes to protest about what is seen as a lack of direct and positive action to try and address the biggest problem facing the world today.
The Strike 4 Climate Change movement is worldwide, being started last year by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg from Sweden, who skipped class to protest climate inaction outside government buildings for three weeks last year. The global school strike called for in March had students from 50 countries participating.
Student demands are not any more involved than what various governments have promised to commit to. Read them here.
Supporters and non-supporters
The idea of students striking has plenty of support from some schools and parents. It is after all a lesson that revolves around science but demonstrates to students aspects of how government relates with the public it serves. The strikes have also allowed us to see the true colours of many of our supposed leaders.
Prime Minister Jacinda Adern said that climate change was the most important issue facing the country, but is reluctant to sanction school students taking time out to register their concern.
Some of her colleagues were more encouraging. Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor: “These kids are smart, we are dealing with their future, I think it's pretty organised, I have no problem with it.’ Housing Minister Phil Twyford:"It's great to see young people getting involved in issues like climate change.”
National lived right up to their opposition party handle, showing again they are the party of the older generation with the smugness that comes with that.
National leader Simon Bridges: “A couple of chants as they march along and maybe McDonald's afterwards, I don't know if they'd learn a lot from it." National’s Education spokesperson Niki Kaye called it a ‘political stunt’ while Judith Collins sneered that "Their little protest is not going to help the world one bit.”
Here’s the reality folks:
- If our leaders around the world had thought and done even a little more, maybe the need for right now action around climate change might not be so urgent.
- Most of our supposed leaders actually don’t get the people born after 1996, Gen Z. Us actually. They don’t get us at all.
They don’t get that this is the most informed generation ever, and is pretty aware of what’s happening. Surveys in America in 2016 showed that around three-quarters of Gen Z believe that political leaders and large companies do not have their best interests in mind. Why would it be different here?
Wanting impact and prepared to make it happen
They don’t get that the same research found that 84% of Gen Z would like to have a “big impact in their local communities”. Again, is this different here?
They don’t get that this generation doesn’t expect perfection, but will demand efficiency in what it accepts. Make it faster, easier, optimise that. And it will call out inaction when it sees it.
But, hey, when you need to get into action, and right now it looks that way for many countries including NZ, Gen Z and its striking students will be at the front. After all, they have the most to lose.
By Shaun, proudly a Gen Z'er