climate change

Kiwi Students Tell Us Why They Went on Strike For Climate Action

“Um, because we like the planet.”

by Zoe Madden-Smith
18 March 2019, 3:30am

It’s painfully ironic how kids are amongst those with the least say in our democracy and yet, they are the poor suckers who will be left trying to scrape together a decent existence in a world the decision makers have, to put it frankly, ruined. There’s no point beating around the bush anymore. That bush is dried to its core or is drowned in some lake somewhere. Or maybe it went extinct a couple of years ago.

It’s time to start calling people in power out. It’s time to turn all those gorgeously crafted speeches about a “brighter future” that “young generations deserve” into action, and stop letting them expire as empty promises. It’s time to put money, time and effort where our mouths are because we actually don’t have much of a choice anymore.

That is what the #strike4climate on Friday was all about.

In the sweltering heat, thousands of students and their passionate support crews flooded Auckland's Aotea Square, one of over a thousand protests organised across the globe. 27-degrees-feels-like-bloody-35-degrees, a fitting temperature for a protest against global warming, in case we needed more convincing.

Clammy hands, glowing from excessive amounts of sunblock, clasp onto homemade witty signs. “I’ve seen smarter cabinets @ Kmart”, “Respect your mother (earth)”, “We’ll be less activist if you’ll be less shit” and “Don’t be a fossil fool”—if the message wasn’t already clear, it definitely is now.

Auckland Strike Organiser and the Greens Youth MP Luke Wijohn told VICE the strike symbolises a lot of things, but anger is one of the biggest. “I am just angry that we have been stitched up so hard. It's not everyone in the older generation, it's mainly just a few very rich people that have profited off destroying the land and we are the ones who bear the brunt of it. So in a way, they have just stolen from our future.”

And not surprisingly, some of these older-but-certainly-not-wiser people weren’t so big on the idea of a strike. Their argument? Six hours of school is far too much to give up, even in the name of saving the planet. Especially because the strike will achieve “diddly squat”, according to Duncan Garner. But who cares what they think. Let’s hear from the kids for a change.

VICE chatted with students who, against Simon Bridges, Winston Peters AND Judith Collins’ wishes, bravely took the day off school yesterday to fight for their future.

Ben Wanden-Hannay, 12 (right)and Tom, 8

VICE: Hey guys, why are you striking today?
Tom: Um, because we like the planet.

Is the planet not doing so well right now?
Ben: Yeah.

What’s going wrong?
Ben: The icecaps are melting, the water is getting hotter and soon we will have no planet to be on so we have to stop it now. It is going to turn really bad if nobody does anything.

What scares you the most about climate change?
Ben: It becomes too hot to live on the earth and all the animals will die.
Tom: It burning us all to death.

What do you want the government to do?
Tom: Ban single-use plastic.

Anything else?
Ben: I want them to ban using plastic bottles, no single-use plastic bags. Let people have less cars and more electric cars.

Ted Blackman Eley, 9

Hey Ted, why are you striking today?
We want to support Greta Thunberg and help the planet out and save the world.

Why do you want to save the planet, what is going wrong?
The sea is rising so we need to stop using fossil fuels.

What scares you the most about climate change?
I am afraid that when I have children, my children are going to have to suffer.

How will they suffer?
They will suffer because all the seas are going to rise, there is nowhere else they can live.

What do you want the government to do about this?
More electric cars, less farming. No more fossil fuels and there needs to be more rules about that.

What does your sign say?
It says everyone should go vegan. 51 percent of global emissions come from agriculture.

Are you vegan?
Yes I am.

Alesha Goulder-Neale, 16

Why are you striking?
I am striking today because the government is not doing enough about climate change, there are so many things we all could be doing better. But a lot of these things the government is just ignoring. We have no rights to vote for anything so the only thing we can do it cause a big fuss about this so that the government actually have to listen to us. Because the people who can vote aren’t always the people who have to live with the consequences.

What scares you the most about climate change?
Having kids in a world that is already set up for failure. Also, the fact that New Zealand is an island, so if sea levels keep rising we will go under. That is not something I want, I don’t think anyone wants that. It’s something that hits close to home for me because I have grown up here all my life.

What do you hope this strike will achieve?
My big goal for this is 100 percent renewable energy. Obviously, that is not going to happen in an instant but it is something the Government needs to consider making a top priority. People are freaking looking at going to Mars and stuff, without even trying to fix this planet first. It is ridiculous.

Mackenzie Blucher, 21 and Isabelle De Coning, 15

Why are you guys striking today?
Mackenzie: I am striking, because in the future when people ask us why we didn't do anything to stop climate change, I want to be able to say I tried.
Isabella: I am striking today for my future children, so I can tell them I tried to do something for their future. Instead of sitting back and letting other people sort it out.

What scares you the most about climate change?
Mackenzie: My biggest fear is that no one is taking it seriously. When I have told people I was coming today, they told me climate change was made up, that it doesn't exist, or that it isn't really a big problem. It scares me that people refuse to look at science and refuse to see the facts because they don't want to deal with it, it's scary.
Isabella: My biggest fear is that we are not going to do anything about it and it gets worse and worse. And then it will be too late.
Mackenzie: We have 11 years left before we can’t do anything to fix it.

What do you hope this strike will achieve?
Mackenzie: I am hoping the Government will put stronger policies in place to reduce carbon emissions as a country. I know compared to the rest of the world, we are doing okay, but New Zealand likes to think of itself as a leader for issues like this and with our clean green image we should be taking advantage of that and setting an example for everyone else to follow.

Matthew Eadie, 16

Hey Matthew, why are you striking today?
I am striking because there is only one way you can really get change, and that is through displaying our views and showing that we do really want to try and change stuff.

What scares you the most about climate change?
One of my biggest fears at the moment is not being able to explain to my children what a polar bear is. There are so many animals that are dying out because of climate change that I will never be able to tell my kids about, I will never be able to physically show them.

What do you hope this strike will achieve?
I am going to be honest, I don’t think the government is going to do much because of the strike. But I am sure we can inspire more people around the world to get up and do this kind of thing in their own country, and hopefully, like a domino effect we can spread awareness and finally, one day, hopefully, it will be a big enough impact that we can make real change.