If I’d known the date, I would have arranged to be with them. Next time, I want to be there. I’m proud that a year-ten group from our youth movement Noam is going.
I’m referring to the rally in Parliament Square today, the first British rally of Youth Strike 4Climate.
It shouldn’t be labelled ‘a strike by school children’. It’s an education event by tens, now hundreds, of thousands of pupils across the globe, many joined by parents and teachers. Next time, whole schools will participate, staff included. A key aim is – education itself: to make the climate crisis part of the national curriculum. So it’s not a strike but a critically important teaching day.
The age-group it’s targeted at is government, – the governments, business, political and communal (including religious) leaders across the world. The syllabus is the future of humanity.
The target group is also us, how we behave. The environmental crisis isn’t happening somewhere else. Others may suffer first and suffer more. But the future of every single living being is at stake, and it’s our children who have the most to lose. As one pupil said: What’s the point of my GCSE choices if there’s no future anyway? I’ve heard similar in my own home.
The movement is inspired by the vision and determination of Greta Thunberg, the sixteen-year-old girl from Sweden who addressed the environment conference in Poland last autumn:
I beg the world’s leaders to care for our future….Since our leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago…I want you to panic…
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres was entirely correct when he said: ‘We need to harness their energy, invention and political power…’
Greta began alone. When she first suggested they ‘strike’, her own classmates rejected the idea. Now she has allies across the globe; in the UK they span the country from Ullapool to Exeter.
It’s not the first great change to begin with the actions of just one person.
Abraham, according to rabbinic legend, broke the bickering idol-gods in his father’s shop, teaching that we are all children of the one God. (What are our idols today? – Growth as the ultimate measure of the good, our own unlimited capabilities, the control of all creation, the worship of absolute autonomy and unfettered choice?)
Moses began probably the most inspiring movement for freedom and dignity in human history when he, alone, left the safe enclave of the palace and determined to take action on behalf of suffering slaves.
Rosa Parks was alone when she refused to give up her seat on the bus in Montgomery, Alabama, on December 1st 1955. Later she became known as ‘the mother of the freedom movement’.
What begins with the conviction and courage of just one person must end with the participation of us all.
Every government across the world has to respond. Energy, transport, agricultural and waste recycling policies must alter. We too must be part of that change in our homes, work places, travel and consumption. This isn’t someone else’s problem.
Our attitude to nature has to return to what the authors of the Hebrew Bible understood so well because, unlike most of us, they were not alienated from the earth and they understood the meaning of reverence. Humanity exists in partnership with all life and even ‘the king is subject to the soil’.