Young climate activists skip school to protest

Words and photos by Dave Barry 

About 30 children took the day off school to protest about climate change.

The Youth Strike for Climate Scarborough, in the town centre, was one of many simultaneous events around the world.

Frustrated with the slow progress at national and international levels, young people took to the streets to demand concrete action from their governments.

The Scarborough protest was coordinated by Murray Robinson, who encouraged fellow pupils at St Augustine’s School to join him.

He said: “The way I see it is that we’re the generation that’s being told we have to change the world when the current leaders aren’t around any more. What’s the point of giving us this job if there’ll be no world to change?

“There’s no planet B. I am fearful of the situation around us but we must all overcome this fear if we are to help the world. After all, I’m only 15 and I don’t want to burn”.

His mum, Claire Robinson, said: “I fully support my children, and indeed all children who choose to strike. I see daily the anxiety my children feel, the fear and sense of helplessness when they see more and more information regarding climate change.

“They are educated, aware and awake young people who feel the need to try and take control of a situation that will profoundly affect their futures. They have made the decision to strike independently, but with the full support of myself and my husband”.

About a dozen pupils from St Augustine’s took part. They said the staff had mixed opinions, some in support, others saying education was more important. “We all believe we’re doing it for the right cause”, Murray added.

Ace Bailey, 13, and Lorenzo Silva-Budda, 14, said their school, Graham, “didn’t want to approve but we made ‘em”.

UTC students say they were physically prevented from leaving campus to join the protest.

William Beaumont, 10, has set up a group called Children for Positive Environmental Change at his school, Friarage. Members pick up litter in the playground.

The assembly was addressed by Green Party candidate David Malone, who said: “It’s nice to see them out here. It takes a little bit of courage to step out of line. It’s a good habit to get into while you’re young”.

The event was promoted by Extinction Rebellion (XR), an international social movement that aims to drive radical change through nonviolent resistance to avert climate breakdown, halt biodiversity loss and minimise the risk of human extinction and ecological collapse.

A spokesperson said: “Here in Scarborough, our council became one of the first in the UK to declare a climate emergency. But we need to make those words mean something, which is why XR and others like us continue to demand action to de-carbonise our transport and energy infrastructure and prepare for inevitable changes in the way we live our lives.

“There will be more floods, more coastal erosion and more frequent and severe heatwaves in Yorkshire - much of it a direct consequence of climate change, which is already happening. But we can do something to avert disaster if we act now and demand that others join us”.

The protest was supported by Frack Free Scarborough, among others, with speakers from various groups and parties invited to speak alongside students.

Besides the protest, the youngsters organised a litter pick to highlight our throw-away society and its consequences for other species.

A similar event will be staged on 15 March in the same place.

The climate strike movement started last August when schoolgirl Greta Thunberg staged a solo protest outside the Swedish parliament. The 16-year-old activist has addressed the UN.

Following Scarborough Council’s declaration of a climate emergency in January, campaigners have been trying to encourage the authority to appoint a sustainability officer and make specific objectives on how to become carbon neutral by 2030.