School’s off in Katherine – students strike for climate change action
Silvana Goldbach-Eggart and Charlotte Pickering will be joined by at least 100 Katherine students, and thousands globally, as they strike for stronger action on climate change tomorrow morning.
The Katherine High students say there is no point in preparing for a future that simply isn’t there.
“We want to send a strong message to politicians that while school is important we want action on the climate emergency now, and striking from school is a sure-fire way to send that message,” 16-year-old Silvana said.
The global climate strike comes three days before world leaders meet in New York for the United Nations Emergency Climate Summit.
And while the school strike will be a first for Katherine students, the concept isn’t new.
Climate change activist Greta Thunberg inspire the movement about one year ago when she sat outside Swedish Parliament with a sign reading “school strike for climate”.
Her protest sparked a nation-wide conversation, and thousands have followed in suit demanding politicians and leaders focus on the crisis.
“I watched students in the Territory participate in the strike last year and because we were not involved it looked like we accepted the government’s decisions and that we didn’t care,” Katherine High school captain Charlotte Pickering said.
“That didn’t sit right at all, this is our future we are talking about.
“The climate emergency is just as prevalent in Katherine – if not more so with fracking happening as we speak.”
For Silvana, the realisation her school was not doing enough in the fight for climate justice came on a recent trip to Germany, where thousands of students walk off school in protest every Friday.
“We had already been thinking about it, but this really cemented it.
“We stood up at an assembly and gave a short spiel on climate change and how it impacts us locally, we spoke about our plans to take part in the global strike, and then we spoke to the principal.
“Everyone was on board and we were flooded with emails asking how to get involved.”
Silvana said other students had likely been thinking about participating in the protest, they just needed a leader to make it happen.
Tomorrow at 8am students from Katherine High School will walk, signs in hand, about 2 and a half kilometres to 50 Cent Park, picking up students from other schools on the way.
Everyone from primary school students, local businesses and Katherine’s Mayor have been invited to take part in the protest.
“We need to start acting now – as students and as a community – because politicians are making the decisions and we can’t vote yet,” Silvana said.
“We want to tell politicians we care about the Northern Territory.”
While the climate crisis looms large and apparent for many students across Australia, Charlotte and Silvana fear Katherine’s youth will only realise the devastating impacts when it is too late.
In the lead up to the strike they have spoken to hundreds of their peers in an attempt to get them on board.
“Some don’t realise how close it is,” Charlotte said.
“While we do see some things, we really need to see it first hand, but when we see it first hand it will be too late.
“Building awareness among young people is just as important as sending a message to politicians, otherwise the same harmful practices will continue.”
Katherine High School principal Dan Murtas said the school is aware of students participating in the climate strike.
“Katherine High School is aware of the International Strike for Climate Change taking place this Friday and will continue to operate all classes as normal on the day,” he said.
“Parents and guardians have the choice to provide permission for their child to participate in this event, noting that students who do not attend school on Friday will be marked as absent, in line with all other Northern Territory Government schools.”
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