Principal’s powerful message to climate strikers
At least 35,000 people nationwide - and perhaps as many as 225,000 - are set to strike in favour of stronger action on climate change today.
And while Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he wants "less activism in schools", one Sydney school principal sees things differently.
Newington College headmaster Michael Parker has posted a powerful letter online about his Year 11 students going on strike, in which he cleverly dismantles all the common arguments made against young people rallying for action on climate change.
"Damn these Year Elevens. They come into my office asking me to support the climate strike. They tell me that it is their planet too and that they should be able to protest about what is the most important issue of their lives. They ask whether the school will stand up for them," the letter begins.
He notes the kids are "terrified" about their likelihood of survival in the 22nd century, and that they feel the leaders of his generation aren't doing enough to deal with it.
Mr Parker first addresses the argument that allowing students to march for climate change will lead them to taking up other causes, like immigration and abortion, which could see them just constantly skipping school.
"They say I am committing a 'slippery slope fallacy' (damn those critical thinking lessons we teach them) and that climate change is different in kind to any of these issues because it affects the lives of everyone," he writes. "Anyway, they say, all these other issues have all been prominent since the last climate change march and there have not been any student marches."
Mr Parker says when he points out the lessons students will be missing, they contend that "the very vision of Newington is for boys to make an active and positive difference in the world".
"Going on a march for climate fits the school's vision better than one more regular day around the classrooms, they tell me. (Damn the school's vision - I should have seen that one coming)."
On the point about "slacktivism" - that kids don't care about the environment and just want to skip class - he says the students argued this was a "chicken and egg argument" - "that going to a march is what will make some kids care passionately and then do more about it".
"I'd rather they went away. I'd rather get back to the school's strategic plan and the Council retreat. But these kids are passionate, they are smart and they have thought it through. They have put their money where their mouths are and they are scared about their future. Students who have shown they care about this should be able to march about it. If their parents have allowed them to be absent to go to the strike, then the least we can do is give them the school's support too."
He concludes: "Damn these Year Elevens. Because they're right."
In a statement, Newington College said: "Newington College accepts the reality of climate science. We consider that climate change caused by humans is an urgent issue, particularly for young people. We understand the importance of student critical thinking and student voice in addressing this singularly important issue. We thus support the decision of our boys whose parents have given them permission to be absent to represent their views about climate change at the climate march on 20 September."
The Global Strike 4 Climate will today take place in 110 towns and cities across Australia, with organisers demanding government and business commit to a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2030.
They are also campaigning for a transition to 100 per cent renewable energy.
"Australia is already on the front lines of the climate crisis. Prolonged drought. Flash flooding. Catastrophic bushfires, severe cyclones and heatwaves," Australian strike organisers say on their Facebook event page.
"But just at the time when we need to ramp up climate solutions, we have elected a government that wants to open the floodgates to new coal, oil and gas projects that put all of us at risk."
While about 37,000 people have confirmed their attendance at capital city rallies on the strike's Facebook pages, a Global Strike 4 Climate spokeswoman said organisers expect a 50 per cent increase on the attendance of the most recent climate strike in March, which garnered 150,000 protesters.
Universities have confirmed they will not penalise students for attending the rallies, while the Uniting Church synod for NSW and the ACT have backed their students to attend the demonstrations.
But Catholic and Anglican Church-run schools say their students should remain in class, as do NSW public schools.
Some Queensland students have called for Adani to halt their Carmichael coal mine, and for a ban on new coal, oil and gas projects.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions supported the strike.
"One of the fundamentals of unionism is the power of people joining together to stand up for justice. We have and must take a stand for our future when our government will not," the ACTU said in a statement.
The strike is the latest in a worldwide movement started in August 2018 when 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg began protesting outside Sweden's parliament on school days.
She'll participate in the UN's youth climate forum on Saturday and address world leaders at the UN secretary-general's climate summit on September 23.
She is currently in the US after taking a yacht across the Atlantic to prevent carbon emissions, and urged US politicians to "listen to the scientists".
A second global strike is scheduled for September 27.