The night before the global climate strike, I told my ten year old a bedtime story. We had been researching the climate crisis as part of his homeschooling, and I was trying to strike a balance between inspiring an urgent need to act, and overwhelming him with fear and hopelessness. I told him about a man in his thirties who was telling his son a bedtime story. ‘Oo, a story in a story!’ he said, snuggling up in his bed. I told him the man was telling his son about when he was young, the day the children of the whole world marched together to make the governments notice them. The day the governments could no longer sweep climate change under the carpet. My son listened with shining eyes – ‘oh, it’s me!’ I described how the man lived with his family in a resilient local neighbourhood network. And the man in my story told his son proudly how he was there on that day.
There’s a lot that could go wrong with this story. My son might not have kids. He might not grow up. The world might not act fast enough, the media will twist it, the vested interests will over-ride the masses, we might tumble into the sixth mass extinction or scramble to maintain social cohesion in the face of extreme weather and scarcity. But he doesn’t need to hear that. He’s already noted that drastic climate change could make one not want to live anymore. I haven’t told him that I won’t have another child because I no longer have the certainty I had ten years ago, the assumption that there’ll be a stable and liveable world for them to grow up in.
And yet, attending the climate strike and being part of almost a thousand people uniting for a common cause, in a conservative small town, that gives me hope. Acknowledging our collective fear and grief alchemised it into faith, and affirmed that we care and we will take action to protect what we love. There was passion, creativity, solidarity, a sense of belonging. We need stories of the future. We need to feel like we can do something.
Join the next march, write to your local newspaper, learn non violent communication, look after your neighbour, plant edible crops, do a power and waste audit in your home, divest from fossil fuels, degas your old fridge responsibly, ride a bike, eat less meat, buy secondhand. There are hundreds of actions you can take. Notice when you start talking about ‘us’ and ‘them’. Working together makes us much more effective.
The students who organised the strike in our town met weekly for months beforehand. They handled promotion, event approval, speeches, emergency services, inviting media and local politicians to attend. They were articulate, resilient and thoughtful. All four major local high schools were represented on the organising committee, and many more schools joined on the day. One of the students told the adults that the schools usually pit students competitively against each other for sporting activities. This was the first time they had worked collaboratively with students from neighbouring high schools towards a common goal.
The leaders of tomorrow were marching with us. The children of the world have spoken.