Sat, Mar 16, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Students protest against climate change inaction

Reuters, WELLINGTON and SYDNEY

Students yesterday shout slogans and hold up placards in Sydney as they march to protest inadequate progress on addressing climate change.

Photo: AFP

Thousands of students yesterday walked out of class across Australia and New Zealand as part of a global student strike against government inaction on climate change.

“Climate change is worse than Voldemort,” read one student’s handmade sign in Wellington, referring to the principal antagonist in the hugely popular Harry Potter books and films.

“The oceans are rising, so are we,” read another in Sydney.

Student protests were held in capitals and cities across Australia and New Zealand, from Wellington to Melbourne and Sydney, drawing tens of thousands of people, with more planned in Europe, Asia and the US later yesterday.

The marches are part of a worldwide student strike movement, which started in August last year, when 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg began protesting outside the Swedish Riksdag on school days.

Norwegian lawmakers have nominated her for the Nobel Peace Prize.

“If we don’t do something, it’ll be our lives affected, not the 60-year-old politicians,” said 15-year-old Sydney student Callum Frith, who was wearing his school uniform. “We need action.”

Elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region, about 60 students protested at Thailand’s government house in Bangkok, holding cardboard signs to campaign against plastic.

Thailand is one of the world’s top marine plastic polluters.

“As youths who will inherit the land, we gather here to demand that the government work with us to solve these problems,” 17-year-old Thiti Usanakul, of the student-led group Grin Green International, said in a speech.

The group was later invited to meet with officials at the Thai Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment in two weeks.

More than 100 students planned to gather in Seoul for a protest.

In Singapore, where there are strict laws regulating public assembly, youths planned a virtual campaign on social media.

“The government just needs to change some things, which is why if we go on strike on a school day then they’ll notice and they might actually do something about it,” said 14-year-old New Zealand student Inese, who did not want her surname made public.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who has pledged NZ$100 million (US$68.5 million) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, has voiced support for the student strikes, saying that teenagers should not wait until they were old enough to vote to use their voice.

That contrasts with politicians in Australia and Britain who have rebuked them for cutting class.

“For action on issues that they think is important, they should do that after school or on weekends,” Australian Minister for Education Dan Tehan told reporters ahead of protests in Melbourne.

Wellington parent Alex, who marched beside his 11-year-old son, disagreed.

“It’s a much better day of education... This is the greatest issue of our time,” he said.

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