Striking for the climate is our only power

Post No. 1 'Striking for the climate is our only power' was published on 22 February, 2020.

When I was three years old, Kevin Rudd described climate change as "the great moral challenge of our generation."

Later that year, Rudd would lead the Labor Party to an election victory where, according to the Australian Election Study, 52% of voters said global warming was an extremely important consideration in their voting decision.

I am now 16 years old. However, since 2007, hopes for bold and timely climate action in Australia have been bleached. Just like the Great Barrier Reef.

This year I start Year 11.

Normally, this is an exciting time for students eager to finish school and embark into the adult world. Normally, a Year 11 student would be stressed out about school work, what they're going to do on the weekend and their rapidly approaching HSC exams. But I, and many of my peers and friends, have not had that luxury. The reason? Climate change.

I've known about climate change all my life. In primary school science lessons, I was told that my generation would be the one to solve this problem. I assumed it was a far off issue. I assumed that my teacher meant we'd be solving it in 50 years time. I was wrong.

Instead, my generation is trying to solve this issue while we are still in school.

Last September, I attended my first protest: the Student Climate Strike here in Newcastle. Since then, I've had the honour of meeting so many inspiring people as I've become more involved in the organisation of these strikes and other smaller events.

If we were really involved in this because we wanted a day off school, there are much easier ways to go about it. Standing in the hot sun, demanding that those in power take our futures seriously isn't something we're glad we have to do. I wish that the burden didn't fall on any of our shoulders, but we refuse to be passive in the face of catastrophe.

I don't strike because I single-handedly know how to tackle climate change, I strike because I want the people with the power to do something to start addressing it. We want the people in power to wake up, become leaders, and realise that they only have 10 years to change their legacies. They need to listen to the scientists who have been warning us about climate change for years. They need to listen to those who understand how best to solve this mess.

During the bushfire crisis, our nation lacked real leadership. The leader of the Labor Party went on a tour of coal mining communities expressing his unequivocal support for coal exports and the Prime Minister went on holiday to Hawaii.

We have a government that is full of climate deniers and is leading the country down a trajectory of climate suicide. By supporting Adani and other fossil fuel extraction projects, the Morrison government seems hell bent on destroying my future.

To make matters worse, the Opposition appears to aspire to be just like them. Just a few days ago, Richard Marles, the Deputy Leader of the Labor Party, said that coal would "continue to play a part within our economy for decades."

And instead of working to make students proud of our nation by leading on issues like the climate crisis, the Labor Party has recently pushed to introduce a pledge of allegiance into our schools. Forcing students to perform a jingoistic pantomime will not solve the climate crisis. It is not real leadership. I wouldn't describe myself as an anxious person, or someone who's imagination runs wild with terrible thoughts. But this summer, whenever I looked outside, the sky was blanketed in a thick layer of smoke. I was worried about going outside. Is this the future I have to look forward to?

The bushfire crisis proved one thing: we don't have long. But it also proved that the Australian spirit is still strong within our communities.

We can change our trajectory. Even the most reluctant of governments can be forced to act in the face of an alternative power: that of the people.

When a population not only sympathises with a cause, but is actively involved in a movement to change the very ideas and values of society - that's when the magic happens. I'm often asked if I think my actions will make a difference. How can students skipping school change anything except our grades? Only time will tell, but what I do know is that our nation, and the whole world, is suddenly talking about climate change, and that's because of our actions. Conversations are starting. Imagine how much attention the climate crisis will get when thousands of us demand our right to a healthy planet and a future to look forward to.

Bryce Ham is a Newcastle school student and a School Strike 4 Climate organiser.