Global student climate strikes spread to New Zealand

Some people, probably many people, are getting very insistent that major things are done to combat climate change, believing that the future of the planet is at stake.

It seems a bit ironic given that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said that combating climate change is the most important issue of the current time that urges to do something drastic about it are being made here in New Zealand.

Internationally (Vox) – Playing hooky to save the climate: why students are going on strike

Thousands of young climate change activists around the world have refused to go to school in recent weeks, and more strikes are planned, including a worldwide strike on March 15.

“We are the voiceless future of humanity,” activists wrote in a letter published Friday by The Guardian. “Now we will make our voices heard. On 15 March, we will protest on every continent.”

To date, students in the United KingdomAustralia, France, Germany, Ireland, Uganda, Thailand, Colombia, Poland, and more have skipped a day of school to demand stronger action on climate change from their governments.

New Zealand (The Spinoff) – School kids are going on strike to fight climate change. How will schools react?

Strikes in more than 20 towns and cities around the country are planned for March 15, a Friday, with the Auckland event scheduled to take place in Aotea Square. While some schools are openly facilitating organisation, some schools are treating the impending strikes as unjustifiable absences, and have cracked down on efforts by students trying to organise.

RNZ: Climate change protest on school day divides MPs

Labour and Green party MPs supporting next week’s school strike for action on climate change are being careful not to encourage students to wag classes to protest.

The protest includes a march on Parliament and it’s clear that Labour and Green MPs are supportive of the strike while National Party MPs said it should not be happening on a school day.

Green Party co-leader and climate change minister James Shaw agreed immediately when asked on TVNZ’s Q and A programme on Monday night if students should leave classes to protest next week.

But he told RNZ today he was not urging children to participate in the event.

“In choosing to take time out in order to do this, these students are placing something at risk. That’s actually the point of a strike, you’re placing something at risk and that is an individual choice that people have to make for themselves.”

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said it was up to schools to decide how to handle the strike.

“I want kids to be learning. If taking part in this action is part of the learning process, then there may be some merit in it. If they’re just taking a day off school then actually they’re just punishing themselves,” Mr Hipkins said.

Other Labour ministers were more supportive.

They are supporting aa protest urging them to do more about climate change.

National Party leader Simon Bridges said climate change was an important issue, but the strike should not have been held on a school day.

He said the protest could have been timed to coincide with the upcoming strike by secondary school teachers on 3 April.

National Party education spokesperson Nikki Kaye said government ministers should not be encouraging students to participate.

“I’m a bit concerned that we have got the Minister for Climate Change out there encouraging people to not be at school and that does put parents and principals in a pretty difficult situation,” she said.

Stuff: Students who strike for climate change will be marked as truants, principals say

Schools are threatening to mark students as truants if they strike for climate change, with one principal calling it “wagging” that won’t make a difference.

Thousands of students plan to strike across New Zealand next week as part of a global campaign urging politicians to treat climate change as a crisis, and act now to protect students’ futures from its effects.

Christchurch strike organiser Lucy Gray, 12, said students were striking for their future.

“Teachers, they strike all the time to get what they want and that’s just money. We want our future; I think that should be allowed.”

But Secondary Principals Association president and Pakuranga College principal Michael Williams said students’ impact on climate change would be “probably zero”.

The impact of a day off school on the education of the children is likely to be “probably zero” too.

It’s not just young people rising in protest – Stuff: The planet’s last stand: Why these climate change activists are ready to break the law

In a suit and tie, retired fund manager Charles Drace is not your typical rebel. California-born, he was once a theatre and film actor, with bit parts in the spaghetti Western ‘Once Upon A Time in the West’ and war movie ‘Patton’.

Now, from his neat town house in central Christchurch, the 74-year-old is plotting how to get arrested.

“For years and years now, we’ve been playing nice. And I think one of the things that has been recognised in the last year or so is that it’s not working. We just can’t be nice anymore.”

Drace is a climate activist, a member of the global movement Extinction Rebellion. It began in November, when thousands of protesters paralysed London by disrupting traffic. Since then, it’s caught fire across the globe, with around a million members in 35 countries carrying out acts of civil disobedience.

They’ve glued themselves to buildings and spray painted “frack off” graffiti, closed five major London bridges, swarmed Fashion Week and gone on hunger strike outside Westminster Palace.

In New Zealand, ‘zombies’ have paraded through Wellington airport, held a funeral for Planet Earth in Nelson, and shut off the water supply to Environment Canterbury’s headquarters. Last week, 35 activists banged on the glass windows of BP’s Auckland office, chanting “liar, liar, pants on fire.”

Next month, they’ll join groups across the world in a week of civil disobedience and attention-grabbing stunts.

Will all of these protests be largely like whistling in a hurricane?

Or will the New Zealand government actually take drastic action beyond their rhetoric?