This article was published in the Belgian magazine MO*, read in Dutch / Flemish here
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‘From now on we are at the forefront, and we are not asking, but demanding,’ says the young guy, while his audience is watching inspired, ‘we are demanding that a concrete framework is put in place to protect the Great Barrier Reef.’ This is how the student strike for climate change sounds like in Airlie Beach.
‘This is our future.’ Therefore, students take globally the streets today. Climate change is hot, especially here in Airlie Beach in the Australian state of Queensland, where forests are burning, and the Great Barrier Reef is melting on the warming globe.
Airlie Beach is one of the first places in the world where students – this time accompanied by the working population as well – take the streets. Later today, streets in Australia, Asia, Africa, Europe, North and Latin America will be taken by striking students and others with only one message: sufficient parley, time for action!
The date of September 20this not chosen by coincidence. In three days, the United Nations Climate Change summit will be hold in New York, at September 23th. This summit must speed up the implementation of the Paris Agreement. Faster and better.
Which is urgent, since no country at all is in line with its ambitions to reach the Paris Agreement. And even if they would all reach it, still the world would reach a global warming of 3 degrees Celsius, rather than the promised 2, let alone the desired and liveable 1,5 degrees.
The Earth already heated up to 1 degree more. You should know that the consequences of 1,5 degrees will be huge; the ones of 2 degrees will be disastrous; and the ones of 3 degrees will be unliveable.
In addition, the process of climate change does not go linear. It goes exponential. The limit won’t be reached in the far future, yet in our lives. All those parents and grandparents out here today are not only defending the lives of their children and grandchildren, but unknowingly of their selves as well.
Action is demanded now. Therefore, the call for the global climate strike on September 20th. Today. Launched as the sequel of the international climate strike on March 15, which brought 1.5 million youngsters globally on the streets. And it won’t be the last one.
The Window of opportunity to keep climate change liveable is closing. Time to act is shrinking, while the global greenhouse gas emissions are still souring. Therefore, the loud and global call for action.
Striking for the burning forests
The call goes globally. Over 2,400 events, spread over 115 countries and 1,000 cities echo the call today, according to Fridays for Future. The organisation launched after the school strikes of Greta Thunberg, structures the young social movement which brings kids and youngsters on the streets out of concerns about climate change.
They want to urge governments to action. Their future is at risk. There is no planet B, despites the visionary plans of Elon Musk and Jef Bezos, respectively the heads of Tesla and Amazon. So the students take the streets.
‘From now on we are on the forefront,’ says the student leader. He does not have to convince his live audience here in Airlie Beach, they are already convinced. I talk to a mum with her 9-years old daughter. Why she participates today? ‘Because my daughter told me to do so,’ she says, ‘She cares a lot about the environment and the reef, so I am here to support here.’
Today is the other way around, the world where kids have to learn how adults have to act. From kindergarten to high school, accompanied by parents and grandparents. Everyone is involved.
In Australia, they have 3 demands:
- No more new coal, oil and gas projects
- 100% renewable energy by 2030 – production and export
- Financing a just transition and creating jobs for those who will lose their job in the fossil fuel industry or are depending on this industry.
In over 100 Australian communities, people will go out and strike, from capital cities such as Sydney and Melbourne, to smaller towns such as Airlie Beach. In March already 150,000 Australians took the streets, followed by 1,5 million youngsters globally.
Today the number will be way higher. The students are accompanied by others, such as 30+ Unions, religious movements, and even 100 Australian companies have given their staff a day-off to get out there and get involved.
In Queensland not only the forests are on fire, but so are the streets.
‘No coal, but coral’
Airlie Beach is symbolic in this story. At one side there are the forest fires caused by extreme drought, at the other side is the Great Barrier Reef bleaching and breaking under global warming.
The economy is based on tourism around the islands of the Whitsundays and the coral of the Great Barrier Reef, but both marvels of nature are under scrutiny by climate change. Coral bleaching and an increase in frequency and intensity of cyclones such as Debbie in 2017.
‘In our lives alone, we’ve seen huge changes,’ says Trevis who takes tourists to the Reef for over 30 years now. ‘We have a grandchild of 3 years, it will have to live in this world, as all other grandchildren. But the world does not take it serious, while it all goes much faster than all of us could have imagined. The past four years there were about five extreme cyclones crossing the Great Barrier Reef, while I haven’t seen them the 20 years before.’
Yet, the government of Queensland does not seem to care, and gave recently the permit to the Indian multibillionaire Adani to construct a new coal mine in the region; one who would initially become the biggest of Australia.
Therefore, Students Moli and Monique are here to increase awareness and showing the world what is really going on. ‘What happens in the world is worse than skipping a class. Especially because we have to live of the Great Barrier Reef. If something happens to the Reef, it impacts everyone in our society.’
Questioning if the government does enough to protect the reef, they all go in chore ‘No Way !!!’
After A, B
Australia has kicked of the ball, now it is up to the rest of the world to show their solidarity. As a running fire, the strikes are spreading out globally. After Australia and Asia, Europe and Africa, The Americas will close the day.
The advice of the Australian students here together: ‘Hang together! We are the generation that will have to live with it. It is happening now. So, Hang together!’