‘We need to stand up’: The Scottish kids taking part in historic global school strikes

Ben Wray

Children across Europe and the world are taking part in school strikes to highlight the threat to their generation from climate catastrophe

SCOTTISH school students will take part in an international wave of strikes on Friday [15 February] demanding action from politicians to stop the destruction of the environment and tackle global warming.

Primary and secondary school pupils will participate in the strike, which will involve leaving classes for an hour to protest outside their schools.

They join an international movement involving tens of thousands of children striking, marching and lobbying political leaders demanding urgent action to prevent catastrophic global warming, the extinction of species and the pollution of oceans with plastic.

Holly Gillibrand, a 13 year old student in Fort William who will be leaving school for an hour on Friday, said that she was inspired by Greta Thunberg, a 15 year-old from Sweden who has gained a global reputation for speaking uncompromisingly to the powerful at international summits on the need for action as part of her own climate strike.

Holly Gillibrand on school strike

Gillibrand said: “I decided to climate strike when I saw Greta Thunberg’s speech at the record-breaking climate march in Helsinki, Finland. I thought that that was something I could do to make a difference.

“I have been interested in the environment and nature since I can remember and this has just expanded into a passion to protect and conserve the natural world, especially with 200 species going extinct every day due to humans. Climate change is threatening the very existence of life on planet earth and we need to take action to limit extreme climate and ecological breakdown.” 

She added that the aim of the strikes across Scotland and internationally was to place pressure on politicians to accept the views of their future electors.

“I think that as long as the strikes get bigger and keep going, our leaders will have to take notice. We are their future voters and they cannot continue to ignore something that is causing thousands of students all over the world to miss school.”

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Tens of thousands of school students in Belgium, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and Australia have engaged in repeated strikes, as have many pupils in the UK. However this Friday’s school strike is expected to be the largest yet, with over 30 institutions across the UK.

“The strikes that I am doing are part of an ever increasing international movement. What other students are doing is extremely inspiring. The enormous strikes that are taking place in Australia, Belgium, Germany and elsewhere are completely organised and led by passionate young people.”

Scottish school children have led the way in the UK, with children particularly in rural Scotland thought to be among the first to join the rolling weekly action. One group of children in Ullapool have been striking every Friday for eight weeks.

Megan, 9, from Ullapool said: “I think it is important to show everyone that we have to be listened to as it is our future and missing one hour every week is worth it.

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“That lots of other school children in Europe are protesting. There are more in Scotland now but think we were the first.

“We need to stand up and let the people in charge know that the planet is worth saving for future generations and wildlife.”

Megan is joining Findlay, aged 11, and Ella, aged 9, again for the strike this Friday.

Ella said she was not worried that some may oppose the idea of children missing school.

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She said: “You will always get negative attitudes but I will keep going because I get more positive than negative.”

Findlay said: “I have learnt that you will not always get positive reactions but that will not stop me from doing it.

“Politicians should listen to their scientists and they should also listen to us children as it’s our future that we’re fighting for.”

Scotland and the rest of the UK have seen the dawn of a new movement for climate and environmental justice, spearheaded by groups like Extinction Rebellion, since the release of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that said the world has just 12 years to make drastic changes to the global economy necessary to stave off disaster.

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Gillibrand also said that she would join wider social movements to stop the destruction of the planet and would not stop until the demands of the movement were met.

“I can’t speak for my friends but I am certainly prepared to continue taking action to limit the climate and ecological catastrophe that is on the horizon if nothing is done. I am not only striking, I am also getting involved with Extinction Rebellion, a friend and I are doing some campaigning for OneKind and I am a young ambassador for Scotland: The Big Picture.”

“It is definitely worth it. What is the point in studying for a future on a planet that will soon be uninhabitable if our leaders don’t make changes and we continue destroying the biosphere that we depend on, if we continue eating meat and dairy at the current consumption rates and if we don’t keep the fossil fuels in the ground?”

Picture courtesy of: Kate Willis

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