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The New Climate Strikes


Written by Caeden Tipler (they/them) | @caedentipler | News Editor

The message of last September’s New York City climate strike was simple. “It’s about our future,” said teenage climate activist Helen Mancini. The strike came after a northern hemisphere summer of extreme weather events, and as United States President Joe Biden allowed oil and gas projects to continue despite pushback.

Democrat Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spoke at the march, saying, “We are all here for one reason: to end fossil fuels around the planet.” She called the climate movement “too big and too radical to ignore”. An estimated 50,000 to 75,000 people turned up to the protest - a number of climate protestors the world has not seen since the pre-pandemic student-led strikes for climate.

Our own school strike movement is preparing for what they’ve said will be their “biggest strike ever” on Friday, April 5th. School Strike for Climate Ōtautahi said in a statement, “As the current government proposes climate-butchering policies like the repeal of the ban on offshore oil and gas drilling, as well as a possible treaty referendum, and in the wake of racist policies such as the recent abolishment of Te Aka Whai Ora, this is an especially important time to make our voices heard.”

Fridays for Future Tāmaki’s Pieta Bouma says the demands of the strike come down to three broad but “interconnected” points with more detailed policies underneath them. These are “Climate Justice, Toitu Te Tiriti, and Palestine”. Bouma says it’s important to note this is “one policy manifesting in different ways”. Speeches on the day will touch on each point, and “highlight how these are part of the same bigger issue.”

Bouma, a student at the University of Auckland, says the reason students should turn up to the strike is because “when [students] take action we feel a lot more hope. Students are educated. We know what’s going on. Showing up is much more empowering than sitting at home complaining about the government.”

When I asked her why it has taken the climate movement so long to come back, particularly here in Aotearoa, Bouma said, “People are putting their energy towards a free Palestine. These are such urgent and relevant issues which is why we didn’t want to just be doing a climate protest.”

Climate activist Rhiannon Mackie, speaking to her personal views on the youth climate movement, agreed. “In the past few years, Aotearoa has been experiencing a multitude of different crises. There are still so many politically engaged youth, and young people overwhelmingly care about climate action. But the number of social issues that are on our minds is also increasing.”

She emphasised that although there has been an absence of climate strikes, climate action has continued. “I think that mobilisation doesn't always have to look like big strikes. Mobilisation can be small and still impactful. Mobilisation can be community-led campaigns to protect local areas of importance, or campaigning to get the council to change local laws. It's easy to forget about the work that goes on in the background in order to make mass mobilisations a reality; the smaller, less glamorous elements of campaigning.”

Mackie’s view of the current key goals of the climate movement are aligned with the School Strike for Climate demands. “Right now, we're facing a government that is hell-bent on overturning environmental protection laws and allowing polluting industries to continue to destroy nature. From allowing more mines on conservation land to bringing back offshore oil and gas exploration, it's a pretty dire situation. And that obviously pales in comparison to the attacks on Te Tiriti o Waitangi.”

Last year, hundreds, if not thousands, marched in Pōneke in a strike for climate, but Tāmaki Makaurau struggled to see the same numbers. Neither city was able to return to pre-pandemic levels. Whether this year's climate strikes will be as successful is yet to be known. However, the backlash against this government’s environmental policy we’ve seen so far could be an indication that this year's climate strike is going to be a lot bigger.

Climate activist Helen Mancini looked at the environmental crisis and asked, “How could you not dedicate your lives to stopping this?” Rhiannon Mackie says, “No matter what, we'll still be holding the line to protect people and nature.”

“As someone who's now outside of the youth climate space, although still a young person, it's not my place to tell the youth climate movement what it should be. I think there's a real need for older generations and more seasoned activists to support the youth movement - but that support needs to look like guidance, not making decisions for them. I have full faith in the youth climate movement to know what needs to happen next.”

Pieta Bouma says the next Fridays for Future event is the Earth Day event in Albert Park on April 20th. She described this as “An event for building community, making connections between different kaupapa and having some fun.”

Mackie explained the most pressing, “underpinning” issue of the climate movement is the new fast-track consent bill, which would allow decisions on projects that have the potential of environmental harm to be left to just three ministers: Chris Bishop, Simeon Brown, Shane Jones, and then occasionally Tama Potaka. The new process would avoid the usual opportunities for iwi and public consultation and the checks and balances we are used to. “Right now,” Mackie says, “one of the biggest calls for action is for people to submit in opposition to the new fast-track bill. The more people who oppose the bill, the more chance we have of shutting it down.”


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