If I had to sum up the youth climate strike in Melbourne last Friday in one word, it would be empowering. If I had to sum it up in three words, they would be empowering, inspiring and disappointing.
I’ve never been the kind of person that skips school but when I heard about the strike, I knew that my support would be far more important than my VCE attendance. I mean, one day fighting for the future of every life on the planet is clearly more essential than one more day of study. So, my friends and I rallied together, made posters and took the train down to the Old Treasury Building in Melbourne. We arrived to find tens of thousands of students spilled across the Treasury Buildings’ steps and down Spring Street. It was a sea of placards, school uniforms and excited faces.
The mood was electric. For once, students weren’t divided into cliques based on wealth, social status and pop culture. We stood shoulder to shoulder, bellowing “Sco-mo got to go” and “Coal don’t dig it.” We thrust our posters into the air, climbed on top of tram shelters and bins and proudly expressed the fear and anger that every marcher had bottled up.
During that march and listening to the speeches afterward, I felt something that I had never felt before. We all did. It was hope. The connection we felt with total strangers and the power we felt with every onlooker who gathered to watch us, made us feel invulnerable and important, no longer disempowered because our inability to vote.
I honestly thought that on that day we had made history and the world was going to change in that second. I imagined that the next morning, Scott Morrison would announce the new climate change plan, the United Nations would force Donald Trump to deliver on the US governments’ Paris Commitments or Gautam Adani would suddenly decide that renewable energy was a better investment than a massive mine in Queensland.
And then I woke up the next morning and realised that none of that had changed. And I felt disappointed. I heard that the Morrison Government response remained that there should be less activism in schools. We hadn’t changed history in that moment. There were going to be a lot more marches before that happened. And I would attend every single one of them.
I won’t pretend that I have all the answers and I shouldn’t have to because I’m only sixteen. I should be walking through life only concerned about the dreaded ATAR score, minor heartbreaks and uncooperative parents. I should be trying to live fast and forget about the future. But I can’t do all of those things because I can’t be ignorant. The people who get to make the decisions today haven’t lived their whole lives impacted by climate change and won’t be around to sort out the future. We have to keep marching, we have to be standing up to our politicians and we have to be fighting for our planet. Because if we wait until it’s our turn to make the decisions, it will be too late.
Isabella Harding, Year 11 Brunswick Secondary College