It’s a bright and sunny Friday in London and opposite the Houses of Parliament thousands of young people are protesting. Some are shouting about Theresa May. Others are brandishing signs featuring the face of Donald Trump. A couple who have climbed a lamp post have been ordered to get down by a policeman.
It’s far hotter than your average February day – the temperature is 15°C – and some of the protesters are shirtless. They are all here as part of the global Climate Change Strike. Across the world, many thousands of students like them are skipping school to protest.
Here in the UK, students are calling on the government to declare “a state of climate emergency”, to update the school curriculum to include more information about climate change, and to give them a bigger role in decision-making for their country’s future.
Most of the crowd are teenagers who have taken the day off school but there are plenty of young children among the crowd, too, accompanied by their parents. They want adults to listen and here’s what they want you to know.
‘We’re Here Because We Care’
In the crowds between Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square, 11-year-old Ella from Muswell Hill in London is marching with her dad and two friends. She is carrying a home-made placard that reads: “Stop Global Warming.”
“I think it’s really important to raise awareness about climate change and what’s happening to our planet,” she tells HuffPost UK. “And I think taking the day off from school makes our teachers think about it. Our school actually banned everyone from going to the march but then everyone’s either said they were going or have said they are ill.
“I was quite angry that our school stopped us from going because if we’re going it’s because we care about global warming. I’m worried nobody’s doing anything about it and people are only going to start thinking about it when it’s too late. And I want people to see that. We can’t vote until we’re older, but we still have our own opinions.”
‘It’s Upsetting Seeing Animals Getting Hurt’
Annie-Maya, 13, travelled from Bristol with her family to protest in London and plans to be here all day. “We’re here to save the planet,” she tells HuffPost. “We see plastic everywhere and all the animals getting hurt because of it and it just upsets me.”
‘We Want Adults To Stop Polluting The Planet’
Imogen is already old hat at protesting – she’s been on a Trump protest and a Women’s March. “If we keep hurting our environment then the changes we make won’t be reversible,” says the 11-year-old from Chelmsford. “My sign says: ‘The climate is changing so why aren’t we?’ People aren’t looking after the world and we need to be careful of it. The reports say in 12 years we won’t be able to make the world the same again. I learnt about the Amazon rainforest and if we keep chopping it down London could rise to 50 degrees.”
Her brother Max, who is 8, says he wants adults to stop polluting the planet. He has made a sign that reads: ‘There is no planet B.’
“It’s important to let children get involved because – it sounds like a cliche, but they’re the future,” their mum Claire tells HuffPost. “We need to educate our young people to make the changes that need to happen.”
‘Politicians Should Be Listening To Us’
Rafi, 11, is protesting with his mum, Farhana. “We believe politicians are not doing enough for the planet,” he tells HuffPost. “They should be listening to us, doing more about it, and caring about it because we’re polluting [the planet] so much. “I think [our generation] will do more to save the planet, because we will have a bigger understanding of what’s going on around us and I think when we’re adults we’ll really care about that and use less fossil fuels.”
“Two of my children are here,” says Farhana. “It was really amazing that they wanted to not go to school and to come here because they think that this is far more important. Every day lessons are not covering what the world will really be like in five, 10, 20 years when these guys are out there trying to get jobs.”
‘People Should Know How Damaging Climate Change Really Is’
“I’m here today because I think it’s really important that people know how damaging climate change really is,” says Sol, 11, who is at the march with his dad and some friends.
“I don’t really watch the news but in primary school I’ve learnt lots about global warming. I remember seeing this video about a polar bear going around in a city because all the ice caps had melted and that just made me feel really sad. The people who care [listen to children] but other people don’t,” he says.
‘We Need to Preserve the Planet For Our Children’
Friends Jasper, aged 12 and Arthur, aged 11, are here with their families. “This is a fun experience,” Arthur tells HuffPost. “I think adults see us as quite immature but people need to realise we have some sense. I feel you need to preserve the planet for your children’s children and their children beyond to make sure they have the same sort of fun and experience that we do but in a less polluted area.”
‘An Attack On Nature Is An Attack On Us’
Arthur, 11, whose sign reads ‘Planet Not Pounds’, says: “I’m here to protest for the environment because the government is doing so much unnecessary building work and it’s becoming so industrial that it’s destroying the planet.
“I’m concerned about wildlife because they’re dying out and it’s our fault and an attack on nature is essentially an attack on us. [Some teachers] have said we can go to the march but others have said no, as you’ll be missing out on lessons.
“I think this is more important because if there is no planet, there’s no lessons.”