By Damien Thomson.
Around 3,000 students gathered outside government buildings in Dublin and towns across the country on Friday (May 24) to demand rapid and radical action on climate change. This is the second international strike co-ordinated by Fridays for Future – a global movement of climate protest.
Speaking to some of the teen strikers, it’s clear that young people are ahead of the politicians on climate change. I say that not because they possess some extra knowledge (which may also be the case!), but because they acknowledge climate change as a political problem, not a technical one.
The student demands call for radical state involvement in the economy to deliver a predictable, accountable and fair transition to a ecologically safe society by 2030. Core to their movement is the idea of standing up for their futures and how securing a safe future for young people is the government’s responsibility.
The immediacy of the effects of climate change, in that the picture is so grim for the lifespan of today’s young people, is clearly the greatest motivation with mobilising young people to take direct action.
Fourteen-year-old Grainne O’Sullivan from Bray (pictured above) told me: “Politicians aren’t doing anything about this. It’s our future that they are taking away from us and that’s not fair. We are going to have to live with this and they are stealing our future.” While telling me about the demands of the Fridays for Future Movement, Grainne lamented that “one hundred corporations in the world are responsible for 71 per cent of our emissions, and it shouldn’t be that way, we should be using renewable energy”.
Beth Doherty (15) from Balbriggan told me how climate breakdown comes down to “the way our society is structured. It makes it impossible to live sustainably, and we are calling for the government to put legislation in place that changes those structures.”
We are not reaching our climate targets, Beth says, because “our government does not see this as a priority.” Noting trends to individualise climate action, Beth added: “If you are passionate about changing your individual lifestyle choices, then you should definitely consider getting involved in political action and getting involved in demanding systemic change too.”
Eighteen-year-old Dan Drum (pictured above) spoke of how “we have already achieved a small goal of getting the government to declare a climate emergency”, but we want “our economy and ecology to work in sync”. We need to have “climate change-responsible production” and “a climate change-responsible economy”. Dan says that “once economy and ecology come in sync, huge change can be made”.
Meadhbh Bolger from Friends of the Earth Europe, who was also at the strike, notes how young people are mobilised because “leaders are not doing near enough”.
“We can’t have an economy or any sort of working society without a healthy planet, without using resources in a sustainable way… everything is interlinked and connected, we need to change all sectors of our society and economy. It’s not just about climate change, its about changing the system of how we produce, consume, and operate as a society collectively.”
The demands of the young people are reasonable, not radical, if we maintain the basic aim of securing a safe future. The Irish government, and government leaders across the globe, have been abdicating on climate change, pushing it into the market for the so-called invisible hand to solve. Young people, however, do not buy this approach. They want predictability. They want assurance. They want their state to do everything within its powers to stop global warming now.
Is that too much to ask?
Student climate strikers’ demands
Below are the demands of the Friday’s for Future movement, and the next global climate strike is planned for September 20 this year.
- The Government ensures all fossil fuels are left in the ground and should not allow any new fossil fuel infrastructure to be built and that Ireland uses 100% renewable electricity by 2030.
- The Government declares a climate emergency, communicates the severity of the ecological crisis to the general public and reforms the primary and post-primary educations systems to address the need for ecological literacy. The government must prioritise the protection of life on Earth, taking active steps to achieve climate justice.
- The Government makes transitioning to a CO2-neutral Ireland socially fair. We demand of the government that it takes its responsibility seriously and avoids having regular citizens carry all the burden towards transitioning to a sustainable society.
- The Government implements all the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change. As this is a climate emergency, we demand that the recommendations be implemented immediately.
- The Government creates and enforces stronger regulations on corporations that are causing the climate crisis and ensure a transformation to reduce emissions from agriculture in Ireland.
- The Government implements a Green New Deal and ensures that after leaving school, all young people in Ireland can have livelihoods that don’t damage the Earth.
All photos by Damien Thomson. Damien Thomson is a contributing editor of Irish Broad Left. Follow him on Twitter @dmacthomais.