Australia

Eternity marks the roll: the kids at the Climate Strike

Many passionate Christian teens raised their banners among the hundreds of thousands who rallied at more than 110 locations across Australia today for the School Strike for Climate.

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Student organisers estimated a more than doubling of numbers since the last climate strike rallies  in March this year, well exceeding their expectations.

A group of Christian students tell Eternity what motivated them to join the movement and speak up on the need for urgent action on climate change.

Kathryn Poland, aged 15, who attends Launceston Church Grammar School, in Tasmania, joined her close friends Anjana, Ellen and Sarah at the Launceston Climate Strike today.

She says the turnout of about 1000 people – school children and adults alike – was “pretty amazing for what some people would call a regional town.” This was about double the number of people who attended the March 15 rally earlier this year.

“As I was walking around, I saw some posters that the local Uniting Church had put up, saying that as Christians it is our job to look after the beautiful world that God created. It was great to know that there were other Christians there surrounding me and supporting this great cause,” Kathryn says.

Kathryn Poland in Launceston

What motivated you to join the Climate Strike?

I love God’s beautiful creation (earth) and I feel the need to protect it. The climate strike is just one way where I can say to others: ‘earth matters! God created a really beautiful universe, and we should want to protect and preserve it.’

Did you get push back for going on this march?

I am really lucky to go to a school where they care for the environment, and so luckily the school has given me and many of my classmates permission to attend the school strike.

What does success look like for this demonstration?

A success would be for the Adani mine to be blocked. Adani’s Rajesh Gupta wants to open up the world biggest mine in sacred Aboriginal land. For this coal mine to go ahead the Australian government has to supply it with unrestricted water access; right now Australia is in one of its worst droughts. The Adani mine going ahead would mean that even more people, farms, and communities would be cut off from their water supplies. As a Christian, I always want to be kind and helpful towards others, and so I am standing up against this water guzzler to give people water, something which is part of the basic human rights. It would be a win for everyone if Adani would not get the go ahead.

What changes should your family make in light of climate change?

My family has tried to reduce the amount of single-use plastic we use, for both hard and soft plastic. In Australia it is super-difficult to recycle hard plastic, as we used to ship our recycling to China but are no longer able to. We have also started buying things more locally (for example, at a harvest market); this means that we reduce our carbon footprint (the produce wasn’t flown or shipped anywhere) and it is fresher (uses less harmful chemicals and preservatives, so it’s better for me!).

How high is this issue on your friends’ agenda?

Each person I know has responded differently to climate change, I feel like the younger generations are more likely to want change than older generations. This is probably because the older generations will not be affected as much by climate change, but the younger generations seem to have realised that climate change is now part of our future, it’s part of our lives, and we need to do something about it.

Some of my friends care more about climate change than others, some of us are willing to give up an hour of our schooling to try and protect our environment, our homes, and our futures, but others are only at the step where they can say that they care about the environment but they aren’t ready to take the next step and stand up for it. And that’s okay.

What are your biggest fears for the future?

I don’t have many fears for the future because I know that whatever happens is part of God’s plan, but I do fear for others, that they might never hear the world of God, and they might be hurt by our actions against the climate. The earth is changing, and we need to help those who cannot handle this kind of change. And we also need to prepare people for a bigger change; we need to prepare people to meet Jesus.

Do you think you see the issue of climate change differently at all because you are a Christian?

I do think I see climate change differently to my non-Christian friends. They are just trying to protect their own futures, but I have many other reasons for wanting to save the world. Sure, I want others to be able to live life well; I would never want someone’s life to be cut short because of someone else’s actions. But I also want to make sure that we are all looking after God’s beautiful creation properly. Genesis tells us that God loves all of his creations, and he loved us (humans) the most. And I believe that God would want us to look after all of his creations that he loves, not just our own kind, we should love and protect all animals, species, plants and ecosystems. He thought that the world was good, and I do too. I know that a new heaven and earth are coming, but I still want to look after the one I have right now.

I’m hoping that God might use these rallies as a way for people to come and learn about him and his creation, so that they might find a hope for the future. Praise be to our God on high.

Tom Barker, 16 went with to the Strike for Climate with two other friends from his public school in the Hills district of Sydney.

What motivated you to join the Climate Strike?

The inaction of our government on renewable energy and the sense of urgency that we need to switch from fossil fuels in our country is what motivated me to join the strike

Did you get push back for going on this march?

Personally, I didn’t receive much pushback apart from light jokes from friends and my school not supporting us going.

What does success look like for this demonstration?

Success looks like our government putting in action our demands which are: no new coal, oil and gas projects, 100% renewable energy generation by 2030 and to fund a just transition and job creation for all fossil-fuel industry workers.

What changes should your family make in light of climate change?

Overall, the responses of adult Australians to climate change seem like they aren’t taking this issue seriously enough, potentially as they may not be alive when it will effect us the most.

How do you feel about the responses of adult Australians to climate change?

Politically, climate change would be the highest ranking concern for most of my friends.

What are your biggest fears for the future?

My biggest fears for the future is the chance that our parties will continue to listen to their donors, and not the people when it comes to climate action.

Do you see this issue any different because you’re a Christian?

I believe that as a Christian, it’s our responsibility to look after this Earth, as it is God’s creation. So for me, this makes me even more passionate about trying to help combat climate change and I see it as a way to express my love for God.

Tom Barker attends the Climate Strike in Sydney

Tom Barker attends the Climate Strike in Sydney Tom Barker

Isaac Dimmick, aged 19, from Darwin, marched with friends, siblings and colleagues (both teens and adults). He believes he has a good insights into the concerns of youth in Darwin from his work with UN Youth Northern Territory, youth work at his local church and as an Inclusion support officer at a Catholic high school.

What motivated you to join the Climate Strike?
The world we live in is being destroyed by our selfish nature. We want everything at our fingertips when we want it, not caring if we are a part of the movement that puts all life first. Hence, I am taking part in the Climate Strike to show that I care about the world God created and want it to be around for my children and grandchildren to admire and enjoy

Did you get push back for going on this march?

One of my colleagues, a Catholic man in his 40s, did not understand my eagerness to take part, claiming that the world is benefiting from climate change, and any attempts to move into cleaner living is unrealistic and naive.

 What does success look like for this demonstration?
To deem the Global Climate Strike a success is very straightforward: worldwide governments enacting policies and taking action towards more sustainable infrastructure worldwide to mitigate the effects climate change has on the Earth.

What changes should your family make in light of climate change?
My family has taken some steps to mitigate our footprint, but there is so much more that the average Australian family can do. One step I would love to see Australia wide, including in my family’s home, would be the use of solar panels for all energy consumption, including cars and other fuel reliant technologies.

How do you feel about the responses of adult Australians to climate change?
Thankfully I live in a community where the adults believe that climate change is a growing issue in today’s world. However, personally, I have not seen the adults in my circles and public figures, particularly politicians, take climate change seriously. While it is a topic for conversation, it seems that the Australian adults don’t seem to understand the urgency of this issue or just don’t as they don’t think it will effect their lives.

How high is this issue on your friends’ agenda?
In my friend groups there is very much a divide. A lot of my friends are more focused on their own individual lives now after school, and unfortunately Climate Change is not a big topic of interest for them. Despite this, many of my friends I have made through different volunteer and youth work opportunities are extremely vocal about this issue and are spearheading this movement in some of their cities and towns.

What are your biggest fears for the future?
My biggest fear about the future is that humanity leaves behind a world destroyed by our own and our policy makers carelessness. My children and grandchildren should also have the right to see the wonderful world that we live in. Ecosystems and culture not wiped out by the greed of a few, but the wondrous world God created in all its beauty and to see God through his mighty creation

Do you see this issue any different because you’re a Christian?
“The heavens belong to the Lord, but he has given the earth to all humanity” Psalm 115:16 (NLT)
The world was created by God for us to inhabit. It’s not just some cosmic fluke for us to do with as we please but a gift from God that shows his detail and love for us and all creation. God told humans when he created them “to fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky and all the animals that scurry along the ground.” Genesis 1:28 (NLT)

Not only should we protect the Earth for our ecosystems and future generations, but we should also rule the Earth the way God rules over us: with love.

Isaac Dimmick and friends in Darwin

Oscar McClean, aged 14, attends St Philip’s College in Alice Springs.

What motivated you to join the Climate Strike?

I am motivated by the lack of action taken by the governments of the world but specifically our government here in Australia.

Did you get any push back for going on the march?

I have not had any push back for participating in the climate strike march.

What does success look like for this demonstration?

I think that success for this operation would be to gain supporters and awareness to the cause and for governments of the world to meet our demands.

 What changes should your family make in light of climate change?

My family should try to use less single-use plastics, recycle more and use alternative modes of transport that have lower carbon emissions.

How do you feel about the responses of adult Australians to climate change?

I feel that the Australian adult responses to climate changes vary depending on the individual but something that every Australian adult should do is educate young people and children about the growing issue that is climate change.

What are your biggest fears for the future?

I fear that we won’t have enough clean water and that my generation’s children will have to live in a world devastated by the results of climate change.

Do you think you see the issue of climate change differently at all because you are a Christian?
Yes, I do. Some people believe that climate change is not their issue and that someone else can deal with it, but as a Christian I believe that it is our responsibility as humans to look after our planet and its animals. God gave us this earth but we are the ones who need to care for it.

Oscar McClean in Alice Springs

Eliza Palmer, 19, attends the University of Newcastle as a student and attended the Climate Strike with her fellow Adamstown Uniting Church members

What motivated you to join the Climate Strike?

I believe that, as Christians, God has called us not only to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind and soul but to also love our neighbour as ourself. The impacts that climate change is having on our world may not be affecting Australia too greatly at the moment, but they are drastically affecting our neighbours – the ones who we are called to love as ourself. As a nation, we clearly aren’t doing a great job of this. So I am striking to call upon our government, our Prime Minister – who proclaims the same faith as myself – and any able person to start taking action against climate change.

Did you get any push back for going on the march?

I haven’t received pushback as such but I have had other Christians think it is strange that I’m getting involved with the strike.

What changes should your family make in light of climate change?

In the past six months my household has made a few small changes to make a difference: started composting, recycling soft plastics (at Coles and Woolworths), drastically decreased our meat intake and carpooled or cycled when possible.

How do you feel about the responses of adult Australians to climate change?

I have found it shocking how little adults, business owners and leaders have done to fight climate change. It is the biggest threat to our nation and yet we have many people still denying that climate change even exists, let alone taking positive action against it.

How high is this issue on your friends’ agenda?

I have found that in the past year most of my friends have started to really become aware of climate change and the impact that it is having upon the planet. Many of them, Christians and not-Christian alike, have started to take steps to lower their carbon footprint and help others do the same. I would say it is pretty high priority for many of my friends, particularly those who I attend Adamstown Uniting Church with.

What are your biggest fears for the future?

Every now and then I have the thought that maybe there won’t be much of future for this planet. But I am hopeful. I am so amazed at all the action that young people across the world are taking. I am thankful that we have amazing spokespeople like Greta Thunberg speaking up for the planet and young people. I am seeing the church wake up to this issue and I hope that soon the church will be leading the action against this climate disaster we face. I think that surely if students can be so aware and proactive against climate change then surely our global leaders will soon do the same.

Do you think you see the issue of climate change differently at all because you are a Christian?

Being a Christian makes the issue of climate change far more important. I’ve had people tell me that I don’t need to worry about climate change because God is in control. I am not doubting God’s sovereignty. I simply believe that God called us and gave us the responsibility to take care and be stewards of creation, and we are not doing this. God proclaimed that creation was good, but the way we are destroying it certainly isn’t good.

Eliza Palmer and friend in Newcastle

Eliza Palmer and friend in Newcastle

Sophie Fox, aged 13, attends Abbotsleigh School in Sydney, and is in the Lower North Shore action group marching band. She is attending the strike with many of her friends.

What motivated you to join the Climate Strike?
The climate situation is becoming increasingly worse, to the point that it has turned into a climate emergency. We are running out of time, so it is time to move into emergency mode and take action. I do not want to strike from school, but I am being left with no option because my education and career will not matter if there is no planet to live on.

Did you get pushback for going on this march?
I did not get us much pushback for this march as the previous one, which was on March 15 this year, but as friends’ opinions are changing with the growing awareness of this issue there is more encouragement from friends, their parents and members of the public.

What does success look like for this demonstration?
Apart from a big but peaceful turnout, this rally would be a success if it led to real, urgent change from the highest level of government and business.

What changes should your family make in light of climate change?
My family do a lot compared to some Australian families; however, there are always more things that we can do. Some of these are changing to all LED light bulbs, planting a veggie garden and installing solar panels.

How do you feel about the responses of adult Australians to climate change?
I personally think that it is not only adults and not all adults who deny the gravity of this issue or who are not aware of the impacts it will have on our society. Some adults are struggling to grasp the idea of change; however, there are still many who are working to push the government into taking action on this issue.

How high is this issue on your friends’ agenda?
This issue is rising on my friends’ agenda, but for some of my friends, it is still very low. There are many reasons why this issue is rising on my friends’ agendas such as lessons at school around climate change and the action and awareness growing.

What are your biggest fears for the future?
I try not to think about this kind of thing because I believe that if we take real action now, we can have a liveable and innovative future that is not to be feared.

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