Greta Thunberg, the young activist who began the School Strike for Climate movement, joined the Bristol strike today. Thousands turned out to join her, many of them from the Birmingham Youth Strike 4 Climate.
Two Fridays ago, on 14 February, we Brummie strikers celebrated a year since our first strike by taking to the streets again. Since that first strike, recognition and approval has grown massively.
There were just twenty people that first day, but by September that had grown to 4,000. Politicians have stood side-by-side with us and cities have declared a climate emergency. With so much achieved I guess it is no surprise that recently people have been asking: why are you still striking?
The answer is simple: we're yet to see the change we're calling for.
It’s beginning to seem like the faster the climate heats, the slower the political establishment becomes. They say they are listening to the youth, but they are ignoring our demands.
With some notable exceptions like Bristol and Barcelona, it is impossible to find out what governments are doing to respond to their self-acknowledged crisis.
In the UK we followed the emergency declaration with the attempted approval of a new runway and a new coal-mine and we are phasing out coal by subsidising the biomass industry, one of the few industries that is actually worse for the environment. Forests are cut down, shipped across oceans and burnt for fuel, does that sound like “clean” energy to you?
Although the average person wants to do the right thing for the planet, it is still incredibly hard for them to do it. Flying is easier and cheaper than catching the train, organic/local/waste-free food is more expensive and harder to find than food flown for miles or wrapped in unnecessary amounts of plastic, and information on how to live a sustainable life is not easily accessible.
People don’t have the options to start living in a way that will not irreversibly damage the planet.
At my school, there are no recycling facilities, and food is mostly sold in plastic bottles and packaging. On many occasions it is the students who go around the class collecting paper to take home and recycle rather than seeing it thrown in the same bin as everything else.
Some individual teachers have begun having their own recycling bins in their classrooms, taking them home themselves at the end of the day. As if they don’t have enough to do!
It's still incredibly inspiring to be out on the streets raising awareness of the crisis, but it's also disappointing to see that there is still so much work to be done. Governments and councils need to stop just listening and start acting.
It should not be so hard for everyday people to do the right thing.
Olivia Wainwright is a member of the Birmingham Youth Strike 4 Climate (@bhamys4c), she blogs about the climate and has been regularly striking since February 15 2019.
Image: Brendan Montague.