title image showing youth standing on westminster bridge protesting youth strike 4 climate london


Dear younger generation.

Thank you for your incredible efforts in putting climate change on the political agenda. As homework goes it was particularly impressive. I would give it a good 4/5. It was lively. It was peaceful. It was joyous. It was caring. Here are my suggestions in how to achieve top marks next time.

Greta puns were to be had

A real stumbling block is whether we see politicians as our enemy or the people that have the power to create systemic change for us. The crowd chanting that Mrs May is a whore was well publicised on the radio. Think! Do you really think anyone will listen to the demands of people missing school to call a woman who is probably on the verge of a breakdown a whore? Your argument is that you are educated and can see the urgency of our current ecological crisis. Mrs May is not a whore. It is a fact. If we lie or make unhelpful accusations then we only undermine the integrity of our message.

Further undermining is the appropriateness of our placards. While there were some really exceptional ones, young women carrying signs reading ‘Don’t f* the planet, f* me!’ show an entire misunderstanding of what you are protesting about. If we are looking to change our relationship with our planet we must first address our relationships with others. If our interactions with others are reduced to simply f***ing then we are all doomed. If we degrade our relationships to quick fixes then we are simply using people for our own gratification. It is no surprise we use everything else in the same manner.

The world will pick up on the language we use, keep it relevant.

Be brave and challenge those who are unhelpful or offensive. The idea of civil disobedience is to draw attention to your cause, not to create new problems. New problems will only serve as a diversion to the true cause.

Although not clever, this one made me giggle.

We are asking the government for help to bring about a systemic change that we have already begun in our daily lives. Which leads me to my next point: Are you yourself fully onboard with systemic change to stabilise our climate?

Do you eat less meat? Do you avoid flying? Do you mend your clothes? Do you avoid buying things you don’t need, such as phone upgrades? If the answer is generally no then are you simply asking the government to impose in law what you are not willing to do yourself? We have a shared responsibility. The government to influence big business through law and the people have a responsibility to influence through our buying habits.

If you are fully on board then write it on a placard. Tell the government what you are doing personally and be clear about what you are asking them to do too. Telling a politician to go vegan is pretty pointless. Asking them to back things such as zero net emissions, grants for small scale farming and transparency in supply chains is clear and effective. Don’t forget politicians are not experts in climate. They are however your elected representatives in government (even if you didn’t vote for them). They have to listen to you.

University students supporting our younger strikers.

Contact your MP’s. Ask them to meet with you and explain why you care. I have a friend who works in the government Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and not only did she not know there was going to be a protest but she was blissfully unaware of thousands of people outside her office. If you want your message to be effective make sure those potential allies inside the building are invited to the party.

All in all an excellent piece of work.

John Paul de Quay (not a teacher)


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