Engagement shines through at climate strike

By Shepparton News

An ambush awaited me at the recent school strike for climate.

My old, white-male appearance belied my critical interest in what the strikers were doing, but saw me metaphorically shuffled off to one side as being among those responsible for the reason the kids were protesting.

What I felt of course wasn’t true, I was just as welcome as the many other supporters and hundreds of strikers more than 50 years my junior.

Yes, I had played a role in creating the mess that prompted the strike (even working with the ‘‘dark side’’ for a couple of years exploring for oil in Bass Strait, Western Australia and New Guinea), but it was not about criticising people such as myself, rather lambasting present politicians, described by one striker as ‘‘incompetent’’.

Interestingly, I was not alone as the head of the Climate Council, Tim Flannery, reportedly felt somewhat similar.

He said: ‘‘Some among us grown-ups hanging towards the back were feeling a little teary, as the truth of this protest is that we have utterly failed the next generation, and bequeathed them a diabolical mess to fix.’’

Flannery was at the Sydney protest with his school-age son, while I was at the Perigian Beach protest on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.

In a report in The Monthly, Flannery said, in commenting about the school strikes: ‘‘It’s a sign of disgust with politics, the fact that people can lie openly and there’s no redress; the fact that inaction is so deeply embedded and that lobbyists seem to rule the roost rather than the voices of the people.’’

It was 16-year-old Swedish student, Greta Thunberg, who initiated the school strike idea and now her contemporaries from around the world are driving the idea, and at Perigian Beach it was Shellie Joseph, 16, who had worked all year on putting the March 15 protest together.

Many mainstream news organisations from around the world have noted how teenage girls have defied the sceptics to build a new global climate movement and the power of those young girls was evident at the Sunshine Coast event.

Those critical of the students for skipping school to attend the protest are simply wrong.

What I saw at the strike from school kids was the application of skills and behaviour that employers admire in their workers.

Frequently, many of us old grey-headed souls damn our youth for being disengaged, but what I saw on March 15, not only at Perigian Beach but around the world, was engagement at its best — these kids were concerned over government inaction on climate change and told the world, in the most obvious way they could.

Arguments that the students should stay at school, learn how to solve climate change and then apply those skills were answered by Shellie Joseph who told me we already know how to resolve the issue, we just need the will to act.

Ambushed? Well, not really as it was all in my mind, but I do wish our politicians and other decision makers would take note of what the kids, our kids, are saying and demanding.

Rob McLean is a former News editor.