Today, Nadia Barton, aged 14, won’t be going to school. She wrote to me on Monday to say that instead she will be joining thousands of young people around the country on climate strike.
Nadia has ambitions of being a politician, but she said: “Climate change is happening so rapidly that I won’t be able to make the change from inside the Houses of Parliament”. She knows all too well that “climate change will impact on my life and that of my children”. So she’s taking action now.
Our children recognise that they are living through a climate emergency. They are striking today because they know we cannot carry on as normal.
There have been some who have questioned today’s strike – asking if climate change is enough of an ‘exceptional circumstance’ for children to miss lessons. But if the threat of civilisational collapse and the possibility of the end of life on Earth as we know it is not an exceptional circumstances, then I don’t know what it is.
We’re already feeling the effects of climate breakdown. Nature and wildlife populations are at tipping points. Wildfires and droughts are becoming increasingly common.
Here in the UK, communities are under serious threat from flooding, sea level rise, extreme heat and storms.
And in October last year, the United Nations warned that we have only 12 years left to transform our global economy and prevent catastrophe.
In the face of all this it’s easy to become convinced that things are getting worse. It’s easy to feel powerless. But that’s exactly what the oil executives, the pesticide producers and the beneficiaries of the status quo want us to feel.
So today young people are defiant. Their courage and bravery in going on school strike are a clear sign that hope is alive and well.
Across the country, there is hope in the actions of millions of people across the world who are speaking up for the planet – from the nanas of Yorkshire who’ve stood in the way of fracking, to the human rights defenders putting their lives on the line to protect their communities.
There is hope in the fact that we have the solutions to this crisis – from renewable energy to clean and sustainable public transport. It is cheap and it is here – all that’s missing is the political will.
But by organising these incredible climate strikes from Australia to Belgium, young people are attracting the attention of the adults who run the world.
The movement is inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who said: we must start focusing on what needs to be done, rather than what is politically possible.
These young people understand that when we connect with one another we find courage, purpose and unity – they know that’s how we start to make real change.
So now it’s time for the political system to listen to young people. They will live longest with the consequences of decisions made now, so they must help guide the way forward.
That’s why I strongly support the call by those on strike today for the voting age to be lowered to 16. We should entrust our young people with a voice to express their views on what their futures should look like. And politicians must listen to their bold calls for a rapid and urgent overhaul of our economy – for jobs that help kick fossil fuels out of our energy system, instead of degrading the natural world.
Young people on strike today are also right to demand changes to the national curriculum to address the ecological crisis as an educational priority. We must instil our future leaders with the expertise, knowledge and skills to prevent climate breakdown and restore nature to health.
By staying away from school today to dream, to hope, and to imagine what a different world could look like, young people are doing something powerful.
They are issuing a wake-up call. They are calling out a system that is threatening life on Earth. And they are showing courage and leadership where the adults in charge show none.
Caroline Lucas is the MP for Brighton Pavilion and former leader and co-leader of The Green Party