Listen. On Friday, school pupils gathered globally and pleaded, shouted, screamed for the adults in power to just listen. Millions of children all with one message. I attended the climate strike outside the Scottish Parliament. At least 2,000 young people and I stood our ground in the wind that buffeted our banners and spitting rain that made the ink run on our cardboard signs.
It was a peaceful protest with a serious message: we are going to die unless we stop the emission of greenhouse gasses, stop polluting our oceans, and stop destroying our rainforests.
“Listen to the Lorax!” said a banner. It seems those in power have become the notorious Once-lers, willing to cut down an entire world of trees to make money now but not to think about what will happen when the resources run out. Any child understands that we cannot let our greed blind us to the future. We children will act as the Lorax, warning of the foul things to come. We all have let ourselves become too comfortable and luxurious. We have let ourselves forget all that we are sacrificing for our wealth. But everything must come to an end. As another banner said, “There is no Planet B.”
“System change not climate change!” we chanted. Why do companies and corporations get to pollute our air and water, risking our lives, just to make some quick cash? Why have we destroyed habitats worldwide, from our rainforests to our reefs? Why is nobody being held accountable or taking responsibility? Why do the people in power ignore the rising tide of warnings from our scientists? We need to stop drilling for oil and mining for coal. Our planet’s future should be more important than a profit.
My friend’s sign said, “We stand for what we stand on.” Our Mother Earth. She gives us a home, the air we breathe and the water we drink. When will we realise that we are strangling our seas with plastic and choking our air with fumes? I missed more school last year because of the Beast from the East than I did from striking. The freak snow storm froze all the new flowers that had sprouted in February and left bees to starve in their hives. There are already humans starving too, but not in places we seem to care about. Weather events like this are becoming our new normal and we can’t accept that.
“Denial is not a policy” said another sign. One of my older relatives tells me that I have been brainwashed. That there is nothing wrong. I don’t know when they decided that science was “liberal propaganda” but I am disgusted. I am left trying to keep the peace in my family where we argue over everything, from Brexit to the NHS.
Striking for climate change meant I was finally surrounded by people who want to make a difference. My grandparents’ generation has reaped all the benefits from the very things that are causing global warming. My generation will have to deal with the consequences. This is a war we are all losing, but there is still time to turn that around.
We are but children. Groups of teenage friends in the rain. Many of us can’t even vote yet, but be sure that when we do – and we will – it will be for the parties who actually care as much as we do about the world we live in. This is more important than business deals, Brexit, or bumbling buffoons who were gifted their power from their private schools and rich families. Last year, when Greta Thunberg started it all, was Scotland’s Year of Young People. We are the future. Make sure we have one.
Harriet Sweatman is the Scottish Schools’ Young Writer of the Year