When we first heard about the Youth Strike 4 Climate, we were excited, but a part of us didn’t really think it would actually happen. From past experiences, any secondary school student protests had led to a lot of talk but eventually fizzled out. We were doubtful of the impact, but with a growing awareness of the dire situation, we wanted to get involved.
This is what led us to a warehouse in north London on the weekend before the planned protest after seeing a call out on social media for a banner making session. We didn’t really know what to expect so were excited to see about a dozen teenagers – and a few younger children with their parents – already hard at work, and soon found ourselves covered in paint too. Interestingly, almost all the participants were girls and young women.
When we found ourselves stuck for a slogan, we turned back to the person who had sparked this international movement, the 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg. We were inspired by the Swedish student’s passionate and candid speeches and chose to use a quote which we thought summed up the movement: “Save the world by changing the rules”
Walking away from this session, we decided to spread the word as much as possible, hoping that at least a dozen or so from our school would join us. We could never have anticipated what happened next.
Doubtful of the headteacher’s support, especially during our GCSE year, we asked for permission to take the day off school. To our surprise, we got an immediate and very encouraging reply, which was a relief considering we had heard of several other local schools refusing this.
Meanwhile, the movement was taking off on social media, and what a few days earlier had been just a few rumours was now one of the main talking points of the school. By Thursday afternoon, hundreds of students were planning on going.
Arriving at Parliament Square shortly before midday on Friday, we were struck by the energy and sheer numbers. As soon as you stepped out of the station you could feel the buzz of excitement and hear the passionate chants. It was also visually very impressive, with thousands of vibrant homemade banners. We’d been on demonstrations before, but this felt different. It felt empowering and meaningful, but also crazy in an amazing way. We were awestruck by being with so many like-minded young people. Once again girls clearly outnumbered boys.
It’s important that this isn’t a one-off though. We need to keep demanding action, and ensure the media doesn’t just go back to talking about Brexit and the royal family. Climate change goes beyond our borders so we need to keep linking up with students from around the world. That’s why the next protest on Friday 15 March is so important, with actions planned in cities across the globe.