YouthStrike4Climate brings climate activism to streets of Cambridge
Around 400 school and college pupils took part in climate strikes in Cambridge today (February 15) to call for urgent action to protect the environment against rampaging ecological destruction.
They were part of a national YouthStrike4Climate day of protest which saw thousands of children and teenagers take to the streets in around 60 towns and cities across the UK. The campaigners came from schools and colleges across the region including Chesterton Community College, Impington Village College, Parkside, Coleridge Community College, King's School, Hills Road Sixth Form College, Witchford Village College and Cambourne Village College.
The march started at Shire Hall with a bellicose range of chanting. Most children were accompanied by a parent or other adult.
One parent, Cambridge resident Mike Bell, said: "I think it's amazing what these children are doing. It's about time we took responsibility for our actions. These kids are going to bear the brunt of what's going on now for the rest of their lives. It's good these kids are here - they're learning a lot by being here."
"We're here to support fossil fuel change," said Oisin Buttnerleader, 14. "The ice caps are melting and all that stuff!"
"The seas are rising and so are we!" said Hazel Ramage, 12.
"The climate crisis is the defining issue of our generation," said Ella Hone, 11. "Children are sacrificing their own education across the world to save our planet, and now we're here too!"
"Just because we can't vote doesn't mean we can't have a voice," said Alfie, 17, who had come from Oxford.
"If the temperature rise 1.5 degrees people all across the world will be hurt of even die - it's urgent," said Jona David, who at 13 has already had four books published and is an award-winning UN child author. "We must speak truth to power. We must raise our voices for future generations. We must act now, locally and globally to stop climate change."
A group of Year 7 pupils from Chesterton Community College, when asked what the next step in their activism would be, said: "Suffragette stuff!"
It's surprising how much volume 400 young people can make, especially since they all seemed very familiar with the chant.
"Hey ho fossil fuels have to go!" went one.
"What do we want?" asked another, and the crowd responded: "Climate justice!"
"Whose future?" "Our future!"
"Please don't let our planet die, climate change is not a lie!"
"Plant trees, save bees!"
All the way down Castle Street, along Bridge Street, into St John's Street, past Trinity Street they sang. When the crowd arrived in Market Square the enclosed space amplified the sound into a roaring swell: bemused passers-by stopped what they were doing and listened to the unusual spectacle of children articulating their anger about irreversible climate damage.
Outside Guildhall, Cllr Kevin Blencowe took the megaphone and started off. "As a council we're trying to do what we can to improve the situation...."
"WE CAN'T HEAR YOU," yelled the crowd.
"I just want to say that..." A cascade of shouts, whistling and whooping drowned him out again. He handed the megaphone to some pupils and they proved to be massively competent crowd-rousing stars.
The calls and responses got sharper, and the speeches became increasingly eloquent. Samaya Hone,14, read out a statement by the YouthStrike4Climate organisers.
"In 2018, the UN announced that we have 12 years left to limit the effects of the climate crisis. And yet somehow, we are faced with apathy and confusion. Greta Thunberg reminded us of the urgency of the situation, saying: "The house is on fire." More than that, though, our home is on fire. And we need to stop it.
"We, the students, demand that the Government finally declare a climate emergency, and immediately begin to prioritise the protection of future life on Earth, taking active steps to achieve climate justice, reduce plastic and cut carbon emissions. We, the students, demand that the Government recognises that we have the biggest stake in the future. that we will be the most affected by their inaction."
The response from educators has been instructive. Some appeared to have blocked their pupils from attending the march, but most have been very supportive.
Adrian Kidd, headteacher of Trumpington Community College, said: "We support students to be engaged with global matters, such as climate change and we appreciate the fact that some of our students feel strongly about this.
"We have had a series of assemblies this week specifically about climate alongside current topical issues associated with this, including politics and the action by young people in Belgium. These assemblies have been prepared and led specifically by our senior students for our younger students."
The event follows an Extinction Rebellion march in Cambridge.