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Students, Strike this Friday for Climate Justice!

“You don’t have to school strike, it’s your own choice. But why should we be studying for a future that soon may be no more? This is more important than school, I think.” – Greta Thunberg

This Friday, the United Kingdom’s youth is taking to the streets. Following the student strikes that have taken place in Belgium, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Australia and Canada in the past months, the Greta Thunberg-inspired collective UK Student Climate Network (UKSCN) has decided to implement juvenile unrest in the United Kingdom as well. Adult politicians’ close to total inaction in face of the environmental crisis cannot be endured anymore, and skipping school this Friday, if not every Fridays onwards, will effectively communicate the generation’s deep desire for political change in face of the growing climatic threat.

There is reason to skip school indeed – whether in lower or higher education, in the search of jobs or at the start of their careers, young people realise, by the inspiration of the young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, that learning skills for their adult lives becomes quite useless if the world becomes unliveable. This tribune for the Youth Strike for Climate is made to convince you—university students—to accompany them and show your discontent in face of the issue; striking, at least this Friday, will symbolically illustrate schools' futility in face of a dying planet.

Why should we strike?

Founded by two mothers that were frustrated by the lack of empowerment of their children on climate reform, the UK Student Climate Network (UKSCN) is clear on its motives: they ‘are choosing to rise up and take direct action where older generations have failed’, as indeed,‘we are already facing devastating and irreversible impacts around the world’. Students, and the youth in general, is called on for a ‘final chance to fight for our futures’, a nation-wide strike to protest the ‘lack of government action to combat our climate crisis’.

This initiative comes from direct inspiration of the sixteen-year-old Swedish activist, Greta Thunberg, an increasingly famous and iconic figure since her speech at the COP24 in Katowice and at the Davos conference in late January. Since August, she has also continually skipped school every Friday to strike in front of the Swedish parliament. She is now followed by up to 70,000 schoolchildren each week, whom are taking part in her civil disobedience in 270 towns and cities internationally. In Greta's view , ‘we need to hold the older generations accountable for the mess they have created, and expect us to live with. It is not fair that we have to pay for what they have caused’.

What are our demands?

Dr. George Adamson, a lecturer in Human Geography at King’s, specialising in the cultural dimension of Climate Change, is in strong favour of the movement. He appreciates that the United Kingdom’s youth decides to manifest itself on the issue - their symbolic power is indubitable, as they represent the future: ‘it is always nice to have young people on the streets. Adults may decry them as naïve, but ultimately, they are the future’. Potentially, this type of civil disobedience might contribute to shake deep political structures, which are well-rooted in the United Kingdom. For Dr. Adamson, ‘the problem is so huge’, because ‘our whole system has been founded on fossil fuels’ – this type of initiative, in turn, can only bring constructive signals to leaders which maintain this untenable system.

Nonetheless, such a youth-led movement will necessarily bring the critique of children’s naïvety, as each time those condescending reflections can simply be discarded. As the Croatian philosopher, Srećko Horvat, argues in The Guardian, we have to stop criticising pupils striking about climate change, as it is the ‘so-called adults' that are 'leading us into a catastrophe'. In his view, the protests are bringing back a ‘much-needed debate about the very notion of a common future’. So, instead of ‘sentimentalising and infantilising’ children in a very typical western tendency, we should instead reverse the force relation, and realise that, maybe, it is today’s children that are ‘the true grown-ups’, while adult politicians may be the ‘spoiled and dangerous children’ we should be wary of.

Greta Thunberg in Katowice (Photo by Roger Turesson)

The symbolic power of the youth in face of this issue is tremendous and can potentially make a significant political earthquake. Going to climate walks is a noble civic action, but voluntarily skipping school – a fundamental institution of the state and to which the future economy is dependent – has a much greater power in daunting politicians and adults of a systemic chaos; it has also a poignant symbolic charm. In this type of crisis, the best remedy is naturally a more disruptive one. If a considerable number of children and university students decide to collectively disrupt the normal course of their studies and coagulate to symbolic places of power, then we may eventually realise the wish that Greta expressed in front of adult leader in Davos, a few weeks ago: 'I want you to panic… and then I want you to act'.

Happening in forty-eight places within the UK, the 15th February Strike in London will take place in Parliament Square, from 11:00 to 14:00.

Edited by Evangeline Stanford, Digital Editor

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