Norwich has become one of numerous cities nationally to take part in a worldwide wave of student climate strikes.
On Friday 15 February, more than 10,000 students were absent from schools nationwide to protest the lack of government action for climate change. The strikes were initiated as part of action taken by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg in Sweden.
Coordinated by the UK Student Climate Network (UKSCN), demands from the group of students include declaring a climate crisis in government, addressing the ecological crisis as an educational priority, increasing publicity of climate related issues, and lowering the voting age to 16.
The demand to lower the voting age, although not directly related to climate change, is necessary as UKSCN says, ‘to recognise that young people have the biggest stake in our future’.
It is the responsibility of individual headteachers in Norwich to determine whether or not students will face disciplinary action for truancy on the 15, but some local schools have suggested their support for the action.
Norwich South MP Clive Lewis tweeted: ‘So proud of our #Norwich #ClimateStrike students. Let’s make sure the best one is even bigger. #ClimateAction @GretaThunberg @ExtinctionR’ on the day. Lewis attended the strike, and took a stand to encourage protesters in their efforts.
This has given some students hope in the democratic electoral system, which has previously faced criticism with respect to the issue of the climate. Lewis expressed his support for the children who gathered outside the Forum on the 15, saying ‘Young people are absolutely right to be concerned and angry about the kind of future older generations are on course to bequeath to them.’
He also highlighted how young people around the world have been excluded from the climate debate and suggested ‘it’s vital their voices are heard now’.
UEA Philosophy Professor and Green Party Politician Rupert Read wrote about the strikes on the PPL school’s Eastminster blog; commending the students for their actions and highlighting the philosophical belief that school walkouts are ‘morally and politically justifiable’. Read highlights the fact that ‘children have no voice in this democratic system’ despite the ‘biodiversity crisis affect[ing] children much more than adults’, supporting Lewis’ ideas, but approaching the issue philosophically.
Read’s states that he disagrees with the actions of government and society thus far, suggesting that adults have ‘failed’ their children and led them into a future in which ‘society as we know it may have collapsed’ and he strongly believes that parents should be supporting their children, and take inspiration from, their dedication to protecting their future, emphasising a similar sentiment to Lewis.
Read is a key figure in Norwich’s Extinction Rebellion protest group and regularly attends and talks at events designed to raise awareness of the urgency of the climate crisis.
Further strikes are expected to take place globally on 15 March.