On a regular day, in a significantly more regular era, the phrase “school’s out” would result in elation from students (and some teachers). Ever since the now-legendary Greta Thunberg sparked the global youth strikes, the phrase has a more sombre note attached to it.
The climate strike in Dublin marks the fourth global student strike, and yet the Irish Government has made little progress to show for it. Arguably we are regressing, if we take the frustrating Shannon LNG result into account. Fine Gael’s decision to go ahead with the importation of fracked gas to the Shannon Estuary from the US has led to widespread protests and criticism from activists, experts and celebrities.
Ireland’s reputation is increasingly diminishing in the eyes of the world, with consistent failure to reach carbon emission targets, an agricultural and dairy industry pleading for transformation and an abysmal transport system. With this in mind, the school strikes are far more important than we could ever realise. The youth of today will be the ones facing the dire consequences of climate change head on.
After being moved from the front of Dáil Éireann fairly soon into the protest, the large group of students were pushed down the road for the rake of speeches. Chants of “What do we want? Climate action! When do we want it? Now!” rang out with an impressive volume, with a positive atmosphere noted at the event despite the worrying ecological situation.
The students used their creative skills to make some of the best posters yet, with Leo Varadkar facing many of the jibes after his woeful remarks on the “benefits” of climate change. Multiple speakers stood on the steps of William Plunket’s Kildare Street statue, inspiring the growing crowd throughout.
A list of their demands was read out by a member of Fridays for Future Dublin, with a ban on imported fracking top of the list:
“We want the Government to realise that their inaction on climate change isn’t going unnoticed. We see the lip service and photo opportunities,” said speaker Amy Cody.
“A pressing issue currently is Shannon LNG. We will be affecting Pennsylvania’s community by ruining their biodiversity, their water and their air pollution. Why should we exploit somewhere else when we are ruining our own country.”
Other demands from the Schools Climate Action include; keeping fossil fuels in the ground, reforming the primary and post-primary education systems to address the need for ecological literacy, implementing every recommendation of the Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change, making transitioning to a CO2-neutral Ireland socially fair, enforcing stronger regulations on the corporations causing the climate crisis and implementing a Green New Deal.
16-year-old Conor Slattery spoke of the need to hold CEOs and politicians accountable:
“We know now that we all need to change our behaviour if we want to avoid the climate catastrophe. However, all the household recycling in the world will barely make a dent in the climate change that is underway. Much greater responsibility lies squarely on the shoulders of large institutions such as national Government and global corporations, who can make a huge impact.”
“There are clear, well-researched and proactive steps that could already have been taken by CEOs or politicians, but to maintain tax revenues and additional opportunities for profit, they have stayed quiet, avoided the high road of ethical leadership and – to their shame – done almost nothing,” the teenager added.
“We are knowledgeable, and watching carefully. What should come first, profit or the planet? They know in their hearts what is right. Greed and fear of loss of power and money is making them cling to outdated and dangerous practices and technologies.”
Slattery referenced the work of Naomi Klein as he spoke about the need for ethics and morality when attempting to achieve climate justice and a Green New Deal.
Friday’s strike also saw mobilizations in Cork, Ennis, Limerick and Letterkenny. Climate Action Network Europe recently highlighted that Ireland must do more for the earth within the next month, with the country well off-track in meeting its 2020 and 2030 targets according to EPA data. Ireland’s energy efficiency and renewable energy are especially poor areas.
Swedish instigator of the original strike Greta Thunberg is expected to arrive at the annual UN Climate Conference in Madrid on Tuesday, December 2nd, after delays occurred while sailing the Atlantic seas. The Fridays for Future movement is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon, and neither is their 16-year-old inspiration.
The anger, fear and anxiety was palpable from the young speakers, who clearly have an advanced level of knowledge around the area of environmental science and politics.
One highlight from the Dublin strike was an emotional spoken word poem, read by 17-year-old Lucy Holmes:
“We too, were born to the sea, to the flowers, to the field, to the water, to the trees. In this fight, we were never alone. We are waging a war with the place we call home,” she shouts.
“I will no longer stand by watching this carnage, this mass genocide. I will shout at the men in black suits, who burnt down my future, who sell out my youth. You are watching the dawn of a brand new age, a future filled with peace, love and rage.”
Photo by Kate Brayden
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