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Student-led climate strikes - Expert Reaction


School Strike 4 Climate Action NZ stems from international youth movements to protest against climate change, initially led by 15-year-old Greta Thunberg who started protesting outside the Swedish parliament last August.

Over 1560 researchers, academics and educators have signed an open letter supporting the school strike.

The SMC gathered expert comment on the upcoming strike.

Dr Sylvia Nissen, Lecturer, Department of Environmental Management, Lincoln University, comments:


"Most of the students striking on Friday cannot vote. But in walking out of school as citizens they are sending a powerful signal to political leaders and ‘adults’ more generally that our continued action and inaction is violating their right to a future.

"The students’ message is as clear as it is uncompromising – that we must urgently reduce greenhouse emissions across all sectors of society to avoid even more severe impacts of a changing climate. It’s a message that is grounded in the latest science on climate change, while reminding us that climate is a matter of social justice with the burdens falling on those least responsible, including children and future generations.

"Above all, it is a message that should unsettle us all into action – hope is not enough when the wellbeing and survival of the planet and those who inhabit it are at stake. I will be standing in solidarity with the students on Friday (down the back, in support) because what could be more important than being part of a global movement calling for a future based on climate justice, and not climate breakdown."

Dr Nissen is a signatory on the open letter.
The organisers of the open letter have a released joint statement:

- Dr Raven Cretney, Research Officer & Teaching Fellow, Department of Political Science and Public Policy, University of Waikato
- Dr Amanda Thomas, Lecturer in Environmental Studies, Victoria University of Wellington
- Dr Bronwyn Hayward, Associate Professor, Political Science and International Relations, University of Canterbury

"As academics working on climate change, environment and youth issues, we drafted an open letter supporting young people who are calling for urgent action to address climate change. History teaches us that whenever youth mobilise for change, from civil rights to nuclear-free movements, their actions are always initially trivialised and dismissed as publicity seeking or naive, but we need to listen to these concerns, recognise the seriousness and urgent nature of the issues young people face, and act on their demands with urgent resolve.

"We have been overwhelmed with the volume and speed of responses to the open letter, over 1500 New Zealand researchers, academics and educators have signed the open letter in support of the School Strike 4 Climate movement in Aotearoa to stand in solidarity with rangatahi and their youth climate movement.

"The open letter stresses that the efforts students are making in planning school strikes matter. They focus on vital issues that threaten young people’s wellbeing. Organising the protest is itself an important practical lesson in democratic participation; young people are learning how to be heard and how to express dissent on an issue that will shape the lives of this generation and those to come.

"Approximately two-thirds of the letter signatories are academics affiliated with research or higher education institutions, while the remaining third signed as independent teachers and educators. These signatories represent an extraordinary diversity of research expertise and educational experience. Tertiary institutes across Aotearoa are represented, as well as educators from early childhood through to secondary school, and researchers from Crown Research Institutes (CRIs). There is also representation from a range of diverse disciplinary specialisations we need to draw on to tackle how we change the way we live to reduce climate change: from climate science, engineering, biomedical science, to music, art and product design, political science and ecology.

"It is unusual for such a wide range of experts to agree on a common cause, but when it comes to climate change we all acknowledged that we need to listen to the voices of young people and take urgent action.

"We recognise, as adults, researchers and as educators, that it is important to respect youth leadership and stand with young people as allies, but not in front. To listen hard to their concerns and then take responsibility for action to achieve the change they demand to avoid catastrophic impacts. We want to thank and honour youth leadership in building this local, national and global movement at such a crucial time."

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