Why I’m walking out of school for climate action

High school strikers in Sydney last December. Photo: Zebedee Parkes

When talking about climate change, it is assumed that the effects will only be seen 20 to 30 years from now. Some believe this means we have time — that we can afford to meander towards our so-called renewable energy and emission reduction “targets”.

We cannot. Instead, we need to recognise climate change as an imminent and urgent threat.

The impacts of climate change are already being felt.

In places around the world, such as in neighbouring Pacific Islands, rising sea levels are already threatening the livelihoods of countless families.

Droughts are intensifying across Australia, and farming and rural communities are feeling the full effects of this. Their voices cannot continue to be drowned out by those of the wealthy and privileged; the ones who continue to benefit from the exploitation of the environment.

The School Strike 4 Climate movement is underpinned by the principle that the disenfranchised and often-overlooked members of society deserve to have their voices heard.

Last year, more than 15,000 students walked out of school on November 30 to protest inaction on climate change, making international news.

While our strike drew the condemnation of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, it reignited debate on the startling lack of consideration afforded to those most affected by climate change and the utter inadequacy of Australia’s climate policy when it comes to effectively protecting the environment.

An integral part of this conversation are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

As sea levels rise in the Torres Strait, food and water accessibility continues to diminish and sacred country is lost.

The Indigenous people of Australia, who had otherwise lived in harmony with the land for more than 80,000 years, are disproportionately affected by climate change.

These issues, in all their severity, have only emerged in the past 200 or so years, under colonial rule. The federal government has turned a blind eye to, and even condoned, the disregard demonstrated by multinational corporations as they trample on the Native Title rights of Traditional Owners, which stand in the way of their environmentally-destructive profit-making operations.

The indifference of the government only continues when it comes to considering the voices of other people who will be, or are already being, affected by climate change.

So many of our politicians have shamelessly sacrificed their integrity in exchange for funding from corporations and entities that prioritise profit over people.

Through their actions, they are selling off a future that is not just theirs. It belongs to us, the people.

It belongs to our children.

It belongs to our farmers.

It belongs to our Indigenous communities.

We need to make March 15, the date of the upcoming Global Climate Strike, the day our politicians are finally reminded of this.

With 2019 being an election year, there is no better time to rise up and demand real action on climate change. Let’s bring this issue to the forefront of the national policy debate.

We need the government to commit to preserving carbon sinks. We need it to commit to no new fossil fuels and to finally move beyond perceiving this as a viable source of energy.

Mass systemic change like this can only be achieved through sustained and elaborate pressure from an engaged and impassioned public. We cannot do this without your support.

Join us on March 15 and let’s make it a show of force that cannot be ignored.

[Doha Khan is a Year 12 student at Glenunga International High School and a School Strike 4 Climate Action organiser.]

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