You would have to be profoundly deaf, blind or unobservant not to realise that something big was happening around Sydney’s CBD last Friday. Scores of students, still dutifully dressed in their school uniforms, started to snake their way through the CBD, placards in hands and chants gathering in volume and passion as they made their way closer to the Domain.
Although nearly 100,000 protesters were predicted to participate in the worldwide Climate Strike 4 Action, tens of thousands of protesters – including students, parents, activists, passionate adults and grandparents, made the short yet congested journey to the Domain, but the creative – often hilarious – placards displayed along the way made the crowded walk much more enjoyable.
One of the first placards that caused some mirth involved a pun on Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s nickname – ‘Scomo’. “Scomo don’t act in slow-mo,” it read.
Other placards were more thankful in nature, with one mature man holding a sign reading “Thank you, young people. Thank you.” His sign, written on a plain piece of butcher’s paper, was adorned by a love heart and peace signs.
The protest kicked off with an official welcome to Gadigal country and Aboriginal leaders praised the young people for attending to show the “care and love of their country”. An elder from Borroloola, a community in the Northern territory, also congratulated those present, chanting that it was now time for “climate justice”, which was repeated by the swelling crowd. “Enough is enough," he said in relation to climate action. “Old and young, we are united and strong….in protecting mother earth.”
— School Strike 4 Climate (@StrikeClimate) September 20, 2019
As the Aboriginal elders finished their speech, a thumping, rhythmical chant began, accompanied by foot stomping: “Stop Adani, stop. Stop Adani/ Stop Adani, stop, stop Adani.” The lead speaker, who is also the Facebook founder of a Sydney climate change group, then stated that the "climate crisis has always been something that [she’s] felt deeply passionately about,” but due to the inaction of political leaders, the speaker founded the Sydney movement for climate change. “We are on the biggest upsurge of the biggest catastrophe humanity has ever faced and our government is doing nothing.
“We will not stand by as our future burns,” she concluded. " The only thing we lack is political will."
Climate change rallies occurred in more than 100 locations across Australia (including all capitals and many regional towns) and event organisers estimate that the 300,000-strong nation-wide crowd could be a record-breaker in Australia’s history; other estimates, however, put the numbers closer to 180,000.
Regardless, the worldwide strike, led by climate champion 16-year-old Swedish girl Greta Thunberg, reportedly involved millions of people across 150 countries.
Protesters in Sydney, and other parts of Australia, were calling on the Federal Government to commit to three key goals: no new coal, oil or gas projects; 100 per cent renewable energy and exports by 2020; and funding for “a just transition and job creation for all fossil fuel industry workers and communities”. Protesters made it clear that fossil fuel workers and their communities were not their target and needed assistance during a transition.
The #ClimateStrike crowd numbers are phenomenal.
Perth & Adelaide at least 10,000 each
Thousands more across regional Australia & Pacific https://t.co/rViiPMOgWR @strikeclimate #schoolstrike4climate pic.twitter.com/VAOKRHq7Zu
— Guardian Australia (@GuardianAus) September 20, 2019
Environment Minister Susan Ley told the ABC that if the purpose of the nation-wide rally was to draw government attention to climate change, "I can assure everyone that our attention is already there".
"We are taking real and coordinated global action on climate change, while ensuring our economy remains strong," she said in a statement.
However, Education Minister Dan Tehan took a more critical view of the protest, not only linking poor test results to the global strike movement but questioning the true motives of protesters.
— Katie Purvis (@katiemelb) September 19, 2019
Notwithstanding the government’s criticisms of the climate strikes, as many as 2500 businesses across Australia took action on the day, either taking part in the event or allowing their employees to protest by closing their doors. Importantly, education unions across Australia also supported the strikes for climate change in what they call a “fight for environmental justice and action on the climate emergency”.
In a statement released the day before the event, the education unions, which represent over 200,000 members, said: “The evidence is overwhelming and unequivocal on the science of human-induced climate change. Australia should be leading by example and taking action to prevent the climate catastrophe instead of ignoring this existential threat in the hope it will go away.
“Our leaders must accept climate change is already impacting Australia, our Pacific region and the global community. Ignoring this problem will guarantee more severe and frequent weather events, including bushfires, storms and rising sea levels and temperatures.”Do you have an idea for a story?
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