Last month, I missed a day of school to strike against climate change. I did the same thing the month before. I did this because I have no voice. It doesn’t seem like adults in my community know what to do about global warming. So my generation are anxious that time is running out. But we can’t vote. So what else do we do?
Missing school is a cardinal sin. There are rumours of detention, which I guess is the school’s way of trying to make us realise the sacrifice of missing school. But I believe that striking is the one thing I can do to provoke change and get my voice heard.
At the current rate of growth, within fifty years the density of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will be too much to sustain the ozone layer. Life will suffer, perhaps even cease. I hope adults will look back and celebrate the fact that children spoke out about this, and that they listened.
When I was younger, I remember waking to hear birdsong outside my window. Today, I’m worried that birds will become a memory in my lifetime. Wildlife is diminishing because of climate change, because of us. Do you feel guilty? I do. Perhaps that’s why I missed a day of school. Or maybe we’re all part of a society that isn’t willing to change. It’s complicated, and I don’t claim to have all the answers. But is a detention really the right way to explore these worries or confront these issues? Wouldn’t it be better to start by listening?
Silence will not make the problem go away. Punishment isn’t a positive message for young people. Instead, by taking on board what we’re saying perhaps the school could pride itself in making a difference. There are lots of ways staff and students can work together. We could start by looking at day-to-day life. The small, everyday things we take for granted. Like the school canteen, where hundreds of white plastic forks are thrown away every day. If the recycling bins were moved from where they are (outside in the hallway, underneath the stairs) and were put inside the canteen, perhaps these forks would be recycled rather than end up in landfill. Or how about letting students use the metal forks provided – sometimes, when I pick up a metal fork, they have been taken out of my hand and replaced with a plastic one.
I won’t go on about forks… But my point is that by talking about things like this, openly, no matter how small they might seem, we can share the burdens of responsibility we feel. By asking for a voice, what I’m actually asking is to be listened to. Not because I have the answers, but because as a school community we can start sharing these worries and help each other shape the future.
so we can
POLLY BUTCHER is a student who lives in Dorset. Recently she completed a work experience placement at Little Toller Books.