March 15 is the day our world changed forever. Young people arose around the world in 2083 places in 125 countries on all continents, in an unprecedented expression of love, outrage and unity. Never before have we seen such a united uprising driven by school students. This will create a seismic shift in geo-politics and shake many adults out of their torpor.
Unfortunately, a lot of New Zealanders didn’t see what was happening here because our news was saturated by the tragic events in Christchurch.
Who are these young people and what motivates them? I met Evie Trotter, and Kira and Lia Kammerer, the organisers of the Russell Strike.
Kira, Evie and Lia
Evie was the instigator! She is nine years old and was first inspired watching a video of Greta Thunberg, the Swedish student who started this movement. Her friends, 12 year old twins Kira and Lia Kammerer joined her to become and unstoppable organising team.
Both mums are proud of their daughters. Evie’s mum Cushla says Evie has a lot of love for the world she lives in and the birds and animals. Kira and Lia’s mum Eva both agree that the girls have a lot of empathy. They feel the plight of the planet. When addressing the crowd, Lia said “this means the world to me”. They are also scared about their future, but action is the antidote for fear. These are not kids that just wanted a day off school.
Eight years ago, in this video, Jeremy Rifkin asked this question:
Is it possible that, we human beings who are soft-wired for empathic distress, is it possible we could actually extend our empathy to the entire human race as an extended family and to our fellow creatures as part of our evolutionary family and to the biosphere as our common community?
These girls, and Greta Thunberg and many of the hundreds of thousands that protested worldwide have answered this question, as are thousands of New Zealanders respondeding to the Christchurch tragedy.
On friday morning senior students of Russell school assembled behind a large banner outside the school and marched to the village green, where they gathered alongside their supporters. The three girls, other students and a few students addressed the crowd, further prepared placards and then set out on an extended march around the village chanting slogans like “seas are rising and we are rising”. Most onlookers cheered and applauded the young people with just a handful looking bemused or hostile.
The protest marching along the Russell foreshore
The Russell School strike was organized well ahead of time, others happened seemingly more spontaneously. Students from Kerikeri and Whangarei schools striked. (Please comment below if you know of others). This video from the Guardian provides a glimpse of a world-wide uprising.
This is world changing and unprecedented. When has anything like this happened in our history – young people from all over the world, self-organising (with the help of social media) to shift discourse? There has been a fog of denial around the climate crisis. Looking back, these strikes may well be seen as the day the fog lifted. Positive change will accelerate now.
No doubt the movement will keep the momentum going. Here in Tai Tokerau there is much we can do. The next Climate Change Community Workshop is at Manaia PHO in Rust Avenue Whangarei at 10 a.m. to 12.00 on 18 April. We would love to see students there – it is during the holidays.