After the climate change demonstrations organised by the UK Student Climate Network (UKSCN) on February 15, another strike was scheduled for the March 15. Joined by millions across the world, thousands of Edinburgh schoolchildren gathered. Students from our university were only one group among many primary and high school children as well as other students from different universities.
UKSCN is an organisation set up by volunteers to encourage young people to take direct action against climate change, and the event was a demonstration of how powerful they have become. The demonstration took place in front of the Scottish Parliament with the aim of demanding political action for tackling climate change, as well as taking a stand against the consumption-orientated culture which perpetuates harmful manufacturers degradation of the environment.
At the University of Edinburgh, the event was advertised by the People and Planet Society. Aaron de Verés, a third year Ecology student who is the Joint Coordinator of People and Planet in Edinburgh, said to The Student that “we were so impressed with how many students wanted to join, and even more by the energy and cohesive intelligence of the young adults who organised it, all of whom are still in school.” Aaron continued by stating that the most vital goals of People and Planet Edinburgh are “discussions to amend the Climate Bill to achieve more ambitious targets to cut emissions faster” and to “bring the conversation closer to mainstream society and media.”
The aims of the people involved were broadly unanimous: legally binding policies to curb pollution and emission, implementing awareness-raising measures into education on all levels, and unity over the issue inside Parliament. However, asking several attendees about actions taken by their schools and universities, very different answers were received. Some children and parents in primary and high school described how their school encourages dialogue and the attendance of demonstrations such as the one on March 15. However, more people from this group complained about schools blocking march attendance efforts by tearing down posters, lack of education about the subject, not allowing children to grasp the depth and urgency of the issue, and taking ‘show-off’ action like lectures and programmes with no real influence.
After talking to students from the University of Edinburgh, it emerged that the students attending were informed about the event via societies and Facebook. Many of the students said that the university is taking steps towards establishing an eco-friendly approach by encouraging recycling, the use of Keep-Cups and providing textile bags for students as an alternative to plastic bags. However, the students complained that action against climate change does not reach out to the majority of students, failing to involve students who are not passionate about the issue already. Aaron also strengthened this point, saying that the university’s Sustainability and Social Responsibility Department is taking real action (such as the Zero by 2040 Strategy), but they are “not radical and ambitious enough,” and that the university should use its available resources and international reputation to take a stronger stand and implement more eco-conscious policies.
The demonstration was populous, vibrant, energetic and informative about the potential power this generation has, its persistence and unity. Students could be heard chanting “hey hey, ho ho, climate change has got to go” for hours.
Image: Emily Dominey