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Pupils to strike and march as YouthStrike4Climate reaches Cambridge


By Mike Scialom


Ella Hone, 11, and her sister Samaya,14, going to the YouthStrike4Climate march through Cambridge on Friday. Picture: Keith Heppell
Ella Hone, 11, and her sister Samaya,14, going to the YouthStrike4Climate march through Cambridge on Friday. Picture: Keith Heppell

School pupils will go on ‘strike’ on Friday and march through the streets of Cambridge calling for climate change to be declared an emergency.

Risking detentions and the wrath of headteachers, students will gather for the YouthStrike4Climate protest outside Shire Hall at 9.30am and head to the market square for 11am.

The event forms part of an international demonstration designed to show pupils are “willing to break the rules” and put their “education on the line to promote system change”.

Two sisters planning to take part are Samaya and Ella Hone, pupils at Chesterton Community College.

Samaya, a 14-year-old in Year 9, told the Cambridge Independent: “People have known since the end of World War Two that this was coming for us and they haven’t been taken seriously.

“Global warming will affect me in my life, and the lives of my generation, and generations after me. Global warming will cause sea level rise due to the melting of land ice in places such as Antarctica, extreme weather and crop failures.

“This will mean that many people will have to migrate due to flooding, and there will likely be war over resources such as food, water and land.

“I am striking because I need to raise awareness of climate change to the public, as many do not know the seriousness of the situation. As well as this, striking makes a statement to those in power – a statement that can’t be ignored as easily as an email or a letter.

“I can’t believe the planet is being destroyed and it’s not making the headlines.”

Ella, 11, said: “We’re going to start off at Chesterton and walk to Shire Hall. We’re going to stay there for an hour and then stay an hour at market square and probably walk around, and then go back to school at

about 1pm.”

Their mother, Monica Bijok, is proud of her two daughters for attending.

“If we can’t turn this around we’re facing civilisation collapse,” she said of the climate crisis. “The International Panel on Climate Change has underestimated the situation.”

Monica is alarmed about the melting of the polar ice caps, and the impact on biodiversity.

“We think of trees and forests as being the lungs of the Earth but actually 50-80 per cent of the world’s oxygen is produced by the oceans. The oceans are carbon sinks until things start to break down, and our fossil fuel use is going up.”

This week, scientists warned insects could be heading for extinction in a century.

An Extinction Rebellion protest on Market Street in December 2018. Picture: Mike Scialom
An Extinction Rebellion protest on Market Street in December 2018. Picture: Mike Scialom

“We’re all vegetarian in the family,” added Samaya. “My mum tries to get rid of as much plastic as she can, we’ve got solar panels, we’ve got an electric car – a Kia Soul, before that it was a Nissan Leaf, and before that it was a petrol car – and we’ve never been on an airplane.”

Home educator Caroline Shortmoor said that she would accompany her three children on the march as well and “hopefully a few from The Perse School and other schools and home educators will go too”.

There are 900 home-educated pupils in Cambridge.

Caroline’s daughter Poppy said: “As I’m 15 I don’t have any say about what’s going on in this country, so I think the march is a really good thing. Two friends are going with me.

“The next step is for the government to take action against climate change – and faster, as we don’t have that long before it’s irreversible.”

Ella Hone, 11, and sister Samaya Hone, 14. "People have known since the end of the Second World War this was coming for us and they haven't been taken seriously," says Samaya. Picture: Keith Heppell
Ella Hone, 11, and sister Samaya Hone, 14. "People have known since the end of the Second World War this was coming for us and they haven't been taken seriously," says Samaya. Picture: Keith Heppell

Scarlet Possnett is one of the founder members of UKSCN, the UK Student Climate Network.

The 15-year-old Bury St Edmunds resident said: “The UKSCN’s major demand is that the UK government declares a climate crisis and takes actual steps to improve climate justice – and it’s important that this is prioritised over other things, such as Brexit.”

Some headteachers are thought to be supportive. One told the Cambridge Independent: “I’m aware of this happening on a national and global level. There has been some activity, including posters in the school today.

“We might have some students attending. We can’t authorise that, of course, though I think it’s a good thing. I’d rather they were attending the march than sitting at home watching TV or playing computer games.”

The organisers said younger children must be accompanied by a responsible adult to take part, and “as far as possible secondary-age children should also be accompanied”. Pupils and students in 40 UK cities are expected to take part in Friday's YouthStrike4Climate mobilisation.

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