British students’ pro-climate protests, reports


Schoolchildren protest at Parliamant Square in London (Credit: Oliver Cole)

From the World Socialist Web Site in Britain:

UK school pupils and students protest climate change

By our reporters

18 February 2019

Up to 15,000 young people demonstrated throughout the UK Friday in a strike to protest government inaction over climate change.

School, college and university students left their classes in order to participate in the protests in at least 60 towns and cities. Around 3,000 protested in London and 2,000 in Oxford. Thousands more gathered in Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield, Brighton, Bristol, Exeter, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.

The protests, organised by the UK Youth Climate Coalition and Youth Strike 4 Climate, were the latest of a series throughout Europe, including in France, Germany, Sweden and Belgium. Members of the IYSSE circulated thousands of copies of the statement, “Climate change and the fight for socialism”, at the UK demonstrations.

In London, protesters carried banners with slogans including, “Our future, Save our dying planet,” “Brexit Won’t Matter When We’re Dead” and “When did the children become the adults?” The main protest was held in Parliament Square.

Protesters blocked roads outside Parliament and were confronted by mounted police. Some of the students refused to move before the police moved them on. Three arrests were made—of a 16-year-old girl, a 17-year-old boy and a 19-year-old man.

Sheffield

Around 500 high school students rallied outside Sheffield Town Hall, with dozens addressing the crowd through an open microphone to loud cheers. “My name is Noah. We are here to save the world! Save the oceans! Save the trees! Save the whales! Save the monkeys! Save the orangutans! Save the bees!”

A section of the Sheffield rally

Large contingents rallied from King Edward School, High Storrs and Silverdale and were joined by students from as far away as Derby.

Abian from High Storrs told those assembled, “All you lot, you’re not 18, so you can’t vote! They say you don’t have a voice! They say you don’t have an opinion! We’re being educated for the future when there will be no future. There is one planet. There is one human race. We need to take care of it!”

Lydia from King Edward School said, “You’ve got kids under 18 coming out here and protesting and you just sit in your parliament doing nothing. Wake up!”

Dewi

Dewi from South Africa said, “This isn’t just a problem here, it’s a problem everywhere! This is our world too.”

Liv from High Storrs said, “All these adults have dictated how we live our lives for far too long… Sat up in their posh houses, not saying anything, and telling us ‘you’re too young to have an opinion!’”

Latifah from High Storrs said, “I’m here today because honestly all these adults they’re treating us like s**t. it’s our chance to let the world know exactly what we want. And what we want is, no climate change and we want the world to be a good place to live in!”

Students denounced Prime Minister Theresa May and the Conservatives and condemned climate change deniers such as US President Donald Trump. …

Manchester

Schoolchildren protested in St. Peter’s Square, Manchester. Students from both of the city’s universities and the Royal Northern College of Music joined the protests. A group of year 11 students (15–16 years old) from Manchester High School attended.

Meera said, “We have to build a sense of community among the younger generation because the politicians are doing nothing. We need a system change, science has to rule in the future. The politicians are making the rich richer and the poor poorer.

“It’s interesting how the media report our rallies as violent,” she continued. “Yet war is normal to us.”

Roisin thought it is “the people who don’t have money who realise there needs to be a change. People think capitalism is outdated.”

Manchester High School chilldren (Roisin second from right and Meera third from right)

Qasim said he was one of 50 protesting on the demonstration from Chorlton High School. “It’s our world, our future. We’ve got to take a stand now”, he said. “The politicians are focusing on unimportant things like Brexit. The poor are getting poorer, and they don’t have access to change things.”

Asked his thoughts on the Labour Party, he said, “I hope Labour can do better than this government. But 2 million lives went for no reason in Iraq.” (The 2003 war was organised while the last Labour government was in power.)

Marina (left) Fleur (right)

Marina from Chorlton High School said, “My mum gave me permission. She said it’s for the greater good. I hope this will persuade more people to do something. The rich usually stay in power. Hopefully normal working-class and middle-class people should come in power.”

Fleur, also from Chorlton, said, “Some schools are threatening fines. But they can’t tell us all off. The government is spending billions on Buckingham Palace, making it look nice. They’re spending a lot of money on Brexit, but soon there’s not going to be a world.”

Sofia from Xaverian College said, “We’ve only got one planet, and the longer we leave it the harder it will be to fix. Governments are avoiding doing anything because it costs time and money.”

Karol

Karol, an 18-year-old student from Bolton, came to England from Poland when he was five years old.

“I’d rather march in the streets not under the watch of the police,” he said. “People should be less milquetoast and fight for direct democracy. The economy should be dismantled and rebuilt. If it’s a choice between Marxism and what we have now, I’d rather have Marxism. …

Ben

Ben is studying politics in Manchester and said, “I think it’s a positive thing to come and spread awareness, but I don’t think governments are going to listen to ordinary people just because they go on strike. The only action that is going to end climate change is a revolution and to organise everything centrally.

“We don’t live in a democracy. Our system is purely undemocratic. Real democracy is being involved in the economy, in having power over your own life, having real power over the economy. If you look at the chaos of the capitalist system, we can’t change the way we produce food or the way we farm other than through the profit system, and the capitalists have no motive to change.” …

A section of the protest in Glasgow

Glasgow

David and Kevin are school students in Glasgow. David said, “I think this showcases how we have very limited time available to be able to change our ways and save the planet. We’ve only got a few years left. Socialism is the only way we are going to be able to change things.

“Young people all over the world are the future. I’m a socialist. For a while it seemed that less and less people were socialists, but now its rising again.”

David and Kevin

Angela Rowe, a parent, said, “If you start with the kids who are the future, people should be listening to these people who are willing to do things. … There is a massive need for global solidarity, but it is very hard when people are just struggling to survive. This is the first time I have protested for quite a long time.”

Angela Rowe

Michael, a philosophy student at Glasgow University, said, “This is to do with capitalism and consumerism, that’s the biggest part of it. It’s clear from the climate summit there is inequality worldwide. Some countries can’t even afford to move towards helping the environment, they just don’t have the resources. We need to come together globally to fight this.”

Lara, who is studying climate justice at Caledonian University, said, “We are all in this together and the protests have been all over the world. Everywhere, people stand up and say, ‘This is not OK.’ We need to act as one world community and not as different nationalities or countries. The rich people get richer every day and benefit from the situation, and the poor don’t get anything.”

Lara

Bournemouth

More than a hundred people took part in the protest in Bournemouth. Dozens of striking children from several schools and some students from Bournemouth University were in attendance.

Michael said, “It is shocking to read in your statement that 71 percent of the world’s carbon emissions are produced by the top 100 companies. Regulations on carbon emissions by large companies are not tight enough. I think these regulations need to be hugely increased. And we need to find some way of adding sanctions to companies that are not trying to reduce emissions.

War has become a way of making money. I don’t believe war is ever the right answer for the problems we confront. It’s particularly shocking that reasons for going to war are simply financial gains and control of resources.”

Emma is planning to study environmental science. She said, “All our appeals to the governments and big companies have fallen in deaf ears. I read your leaflet and I certainly agree that corperate greed is the most important factor in climate change. We don’t have any say, but the companies have. Even some world leaders like US President Trump are in denial of climate change because dealing with climate change will cut across the profit interests of big companies. I am glad that more and more people, students and youth are awakening to the world reality.”

Schoolchildren and students gather on the steps of Leeds Town Hall

From the World Socialist Web Site in Leeds, England:

18 February 2019

Over 1,000 school and university students gathered on the steps of Leeds Town Hall on Friday to rally against climate change. Many had walked out of school despite the opposition of their head teachers. Homemade banners expressed their anger with slogans like, “One Planet, One People”, “We demand a future”, “Planet not Profit”, “What I stand for is what I stand on” and many more. They listened intently to the speakers that addressed the rally, many of them also school students.

Barbara Slaughter of the Socialist Equality Party was one of the speakers. She was warmly welcomed, especially when she described the global character of the crisis and the necessity for global action to address it.

She said, “Today’s strike of school students in the UK is part of a global movement of youth against the disaster of climate change that has already resulted in floods, drought, wildfires, typhoons, hurricanes, widespread hunger and disease. According to the UN, 210 million people have been driven out of their homes as a result of extreme drought since 2008. This is a global problem and requires a global solution.

“Seventy percent of all greenhouse gases released from 1988 to 2018 came from companies controlled by millionaires and billionaires. The top 10 percent of society are driven by the profit motive. They oppose any measures that impact on the profits of the major corporations.

Barbara Slaughter at the Leeds protest

“The fundamental problem is the capitalist profit system and division of the planet into competing nation states. This system prevents a rational scientific plan from being implemented which is necessary to achieve rapid reduction in carbon emissions. And the greatest danger that confronts mankind and the very existence of life on the planet today is the danger of nuclear war, which is being prepared for in the Pentagon and elsewhere.

“All the catastrophes we face—poverty, inequality, fascism, attacks on democratic rights, climate change and the growing threat of war—are products of the capitalist system, where private profit is the driving force of the economy.

“As the leaflet we are distributing today states, ‘The global character of the student strikes and protests has fundamental significance. Young people are organising across national boundaries in recognition that climate change has global causes and global consequences. In doing so you are meeting up with an international resurgence of the class struggle.’”

She continued, “Millions of workers across the planet are uniting in strikes and protests to defend their wages, living standards and basic rights. Teachers in the US, the UK and Zimbabwe, airline pilots, railway workers, Amazon workers, the ‘yellow vests’ in France—the list goes on. The international working class is a powerful social force. And it is only through the unity of the working class with the growing international movement of the youth that a solution can be found.

“Nothing less than the reorganisation of the global economy in the interest of social need not private profit can resolve the climate crisis. The only answer to the environmental crisis is international socialism. …

“The Socialist Equality Party and its youth movement the International Youth and Students for Social Equality stand for the end of the division of the world into nation states and the end of private ownership of the wealth of society by a tiny financial elite. The resources of the planet must be utilised to provide for social need not private profit. …

Steph

WSWS reporters spoke to some of those attending the protest in Leeds. Steph, a zoology student at Leeds University, said, “We were inspired by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish girl who first went on strike. Governments are failing to do anything. They just water down the facts. If the youth can take action, why can’t the government? They make all kinds of promises but the temperatures continue to rise. They make agreements then don’t carry them out. It needs a change in the system, to target the big companies. Seventy percent of emissions come from the big companies. Change has to come from the bottom.”

A school pupil from Horsforth School in Leeds didn’t want to give her name because head teaching staff there were strongly opposed to the strike. She said, “Five or six of us came here today. We all passionately believe that we need to act now. Not enough is being done by those who have the power. My school is strongly against the strike, they claim for ‘safeguarding reasons’. I understand where they are coming from, but we came anyway.”

Loup, from France, is a young man who lives in Leeds. He said, “It really seems like climate change is part of a systemic fault: The system is fundamentally broken and incremental changes of the system cannot solve these issues. The issues arise because of the system itself. To me it makes much more sense to think about a revolution and to bring in a change of system rather than make incremental changes within the system, which is what seems to be suggested by most policies being put forward around the world at the moment. Most people are aware of the problems, but they don’t know how to solve them.”

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