On Friday 15th February, young people embarked on climate change strikes across all different regions of the UK. The march attracted thousands of school pupils across the country, throughout 60 towns and cities including London, Cardiff, Oxford, Edinburgh, Manchester and Belfast. The movement was first instigated by 15-year-old Swedish student Greta Thunberg, who decided to skip school on Fridays last year to protest outside the Swedish Parliament on the issue of climate change. Thousands of UK school children are now following Greta’s footsteps, hoping to put their actions forward and influence the government, demanding more radical policy changes to help solve the issue of climate change. The strike’s purpose is to prioritize climate change as a key issue on the agenda, and it should be taken seriously by all political parties.
While some people are concerned that students’ schooling should not be intervened by their political participation, the march in my perspective can be seen as a landmark, a symbolic statement by the youth addressing a problem that needs to be resolved now. Now is the time, not any later. Through their action of skipping school, they have shown there is a greater need for the government to start making changes by action, not by words: the government should tackle the issue, not just address it as an emergency.
Political participation can also be seen as a form of education, as education does not only take place in institutions, schools, or universities, but also in real life and experiences, in which this march is the perfect way to educate children and engage public awareness on real world problems that need to be tackled. This political education is crucial and should be introduced more effectively in schools. Seeing the youth making statements on this global phenomenon is extremely bold and empowering, raising their voices and opinions on something they believe in and inspiring others to engage in politics, especially within young generations. We should be able to take charge over problems that will impact our lives and others through holding the government accountable, as healthy democracy should be. This rise in recent years of movements, marches, and protests from the youth all over the world is a start in engaging with politics. Getting the attention and ideas of young people will contribute largely to the pluralistic democracy with protests and strikes as platforms for us to express our interests and identities. As under 18s are unable to vote, participating in these movements can be an endorsement to political participation.
However, it is unlikely the government will take the march into account, despite the movement grabbing their attention, and with Brexit as the main priority for politicians right now, it is very difficult for the issue of Climate Change to overtake it. In the hostile atmosphere of Parliament where little compromises are achieved – with the Conservative government in control who have not taken a lot of interest in the area nor implemented many environmental policies in recent years – actual changes will need more than movements and protests to achieve, requiring collaborative ideas from numerous organizations. Students should have the opportunity to organize demonstrations at schools on the impact of global warming, in order to spread awareness and information to their fellow classmates. Workshops could be carried out to engage children and encourage them to suggest their own ideas on how to solve this problem. Students could be taught how to make small actions to be environmentally friendly in their everyday lives. The youth are having an influential voice, but we also need the support of the older generation to make them part of something bigger.
A movement which started solo by Greta has now gained thousands of others, with the same purpose to show a hopeful future to not only the UK political scene, but all over the world – encouraging a sense of togetherness towards a greener planet for everyone.
– Khanh Nguyen