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Why the Global Climate Strike is happening

Georgina Black   Wed 11 Sep 2019

“Our house is on fire”

These words, spoken at the 2019 World Economic Forum by internationally known, teenage environmentalist, Greta Thunberg, encapsulate the urgency required in the battle against Climate Breakdown. This summer alone we have experienced some of the most extreme weather conditions on record, not just in Northern Ireland, but globally. In the Netherlands, it has been reported that there was a nearly 14% increase in deaths during the week of the heat wave in which the highest temperature ever for the Netherlands was recorded at about 400C. This record temperature was not a standalone occurrence as the heatwave swept across Europe. The Arctic Circle has been facing unprecedented wildfires and the Amazon Rainforest, the ‘lungs of the Earth’, have been set on fire to satisfy political and corporate greed that overconsumption drives.

We can no longer speak of Climate Change. This is a Climate Crisis.

Since Greta first began striking in August last year, young people have felt increasingly empowered to take similar action to raise awareness surrounding climate breakdown and demand climate justice. There have been a series of youth strikes and protests since, and several international youth environmental conservation organisations have been established to organise this mass citizen action. Such organisations include Fridays for Future, Youth Strike4Climate, and the UK Student Climate Network.

These organizations and their members recognize that while they did not cause climate breakdown, it is a burden they will have to bear unless immediate, systematic changes are made. The strikes and protests that have been occurring more frequently and on an international level, are a direct result of the climate crisis the world is facing.

However, this is not just a battle for young people to fight, this is multigenerational struggle and everyone needs to get involved in some way. It is for this reason that Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful (the organisation that runs the Northern Irish Eco-Schools programme) has announced that it will be supporting the Youth Strike for Climate Change on the 20th September 2019. Locally, we are adding our voices to the growing number of people who are demanding more concerted action on protecting our environment.

Beyond anything else, the Global Climate Strike is a call to action. Here at Eco-Schools Northern Ireland, we believe that action is the best response to climate breakdown. That is why we have renamed our Climate Change topic to Climate Action – action generates hope and creates positive change. We want pupils to engage with the practical solutions to the problems we face and how they can work to tackle climate breakdown. The Eco-Schools programme, and especially the Green Flag Award, is a pupil lead initiative that empowers young people to make positive environmental changes in their schools and communities which is why, as an organisation, we are lending our support to them on this global day of action. We would encourage you to support any pupils who may independently wish to join the Global Climate Strike.

Speaking about supporting the strike, Chief Executive of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, Ian Humphreys, said;

“I want to commend those people, young and old, who are peacefully yet powerfully challenging us all to make a real difference on these undeniable issues. It is for those reasons and a belief that change is always possible that I am delighted to lend our organisations support to this day of action.”

“The Department of Agriculture, Environment & Rural Affairs is launching a consultation for the 25-year environmental plan this month. I would urge every person taking part in this strike to make their voices heard and ensure that we get a massive response to this consultation and a plan that can actually deliver better outcomes for our environment.”

We still have time to act, but we must act now.