In the face of ecological collapse, Conservatives are more concerned about ‘truancy’
On Friday, thousands of teenagers and primary school children demanded action on climate change. They protested in London, Oxford, Leeds and across the rest of the UK. Students bunked off school and others walked out en masse at 11am, allowing the movement to describe itself as a strike, for others it was half term.
In London, demonstrators staged a sit in at the junction near Parliament Square and on Westminster Bridge. Their message was clear and simple: political leaders are not doing enough to combat climate change, it’s time to take positive action before it’s too late.
It may be already.
People at the protest felt patronised and disenfranchised. Several called for the voting age to be lowered to 16 so that political parties actually have some skin in the game when it comes to their demands.
When asked whether the prime minister supported the strike, a Downing Street spokesperson said: “It is important to emphasise that disruption increases teachers’ workloads and wastes lesson time that teachers have carefully prepared for.”
Andrea Leadsom, a Conservative MP and leader of the House of Commons, tweeted “It’s called truancy, not a strike,” before rowing back a bit:
I applaud and share the sentiment of young people wanting to address climate change – and am really proud of our 25 Year Environment Plan and UK record of decarbonisation – but school is vital and this protest could be done at the weekend or in half term https://t.co/V9Ar4fe4My
— Andrea Leadsom MP (@andrealeadsom) February 15, 2019
That was the response of two of the most senior Tories in the country. You can see why the protesters were chanting “fuck Theresa May.”
Climate Campaigner: “Who wants to bunk-off school on Friday and join in with a climate change protest?”
School kid: “You had me at bunk-off school.”
— James Cleverly MP (@JamesCleverly) February 15, 2019
This is the same Conservative party that wants you to think it is concerned about the environment. Yesterday’s response is a clear cut example that no matter how many times David Cameron says “vote blue, go green” or Michael Gove announces a ban on straws after an episode of Blue Planet II, Tory claims of concern for the environment come across as disingenuous.
“Older people are stuck in their ways and they don’t want to admit the damage they’ve done.”
— JOE Politics (@PoliticsJOE_UK) February 15, 2019
Yesterday’s demonstration was an opportunity for the government to show its commitment to tackling the single greatest security threat to the UK and the rest of the planet – something they claim to support. Instead, it chose to attack young people for political participation.
By way of contrast, here’s how the left of British politics responded:
Climate change is the greatest threat that we all face but it is the school kids of today whose futures are most on the line.
They are right to feel let down by the generation before them and it’s inspiring to see them making their voice heard today. #SchoolStrike4Climate
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) February 15, 2019
When young people see governments putting their whole future at risk it is hardly surprising that they have decided to take action to demand change. What is amazingly positive, is the increasing global reach of this campaign. #SchoolStrike4Climate pic.twitter.com/3aDcwTFL0K
— John McDonnell MP (@johnmcdonnellMP) February 15, 2019
Some adults seem determined today to show exactly why we should be listening more to young people. https://t.co/Lm59OBxN4q
— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) February 15, 2019
Addressing a strike in Brighton, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said: “Our children recognise that this is a climate emergency.
“They are striking this week because they know we cannot carry on as normal.”
The only thing perhaps more worrying than impending ecological collapse is the increasing tendency to view the issue through a left/right lens. When did the extinction of the human race become party political?
really enjoying all the right-wing commentators laying into the kids involved in the climate strike today, as if not wanting to spend your entire life on a flooded rock with no food makes you some kind of snowflake
— Jonn Elledge (@JonnElledge) February 15, 2019