Students, supporters converge on central Hamilton calling for action on climate change

Students and supporters march in central Hamilton demanding urgent action on climate change.
TOM LEE/STUFF
Students and supporters march in central Hamilton demanding urgent action on climate change.

Their voices were strong, urgent - and distinctly female.

Watched on by mid-afternoon shoppers and commuters, about 300 school students and supporters marched through central Hamilton on Friday, demanding urgent action on climate change.

The event was one of 35 planned rallies across the country under the banner School Strike 4 Climate Action NZ. The strikes are part of a global movement of student activism.

Students prepare their signs ahead of Friday's march. From left, Natasha Bainbridge, Amara Casey and Emily Cox.
TOM LEE/STUFF
Students prepare their signs ahead of Friday's march. From left, Natasha Bainbridge, Amara Casey and Emily Cox.

Year 13 students Courtney Glassie, Michaela Mokai, and Shae Stevenson were among a sizeable contingent from ​Sacred Heart Girls' College to join the strike.

 

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Isaac Rayner, 10, joined Friday's strike and hopes adults will take more action to stop climate change.
TOM LEE/STUFF
Isaac Rayner, 10, joined Friday's strike and hopes adults will take more action to stop climate change.

Michaela, 16, said teachers had been supportive of students attending the strike.

A sense of urgency prompted many students to attend the rally.

"I think people who have criticised the strikes perhaps don't understand how passionate young people feel about climate change," Michaela said.

The vast majority of students at the Hamilton rally were female, but opinions differed as to why male students failed to show up in number.

Hamilton Boys' High School student Dylan Strauss, 17, said the climate change strike wasn't a major topic of discussion among classmates.

"I decided to come here because I believe it's an important issue and I had friends from Hillcrest High School that were going. For whatever reason, it wasn't discussed a lot at my school," Dylan said.

Natasha Bainbridge and Emily Cox, both 13, of Hamilton Girls' High School, said the strike action gave voice to young people's concerns about climate change.

Inaction by world leaders alarmed many young people.

"I've been following the international news and when you have someone like US President Donald Trump say he doesn't believe in climate change, you start to feel that time is running out," Natasha said.

"I'm for keeping this earth alive, I want to graduate and look forward to my future, and I can't do that if we have temperature swings and rising sea levels."

Kaaren Rayner and her son Isaac Rayner, 10, came to the strike carrying placards.

Rayner said her family liked to sail and had seen first-hand the impact of pollution on sea life.

Criticism that older generations hadn't done enough to address climate change were valid, Rayner said.

"I do feel our generation has let down children but I'm really grateful that we've got a Government that is starting to take action."

Waikato University political science and public policy lecturer Dr Raven Cretney​ helped organise a letter signed by 1562 academics, teachers and researchers in support of the student strike.

She was among a group of Waikato University academics to attend the Hamilton strike in an act of solidarity.

Cretney said students had sacrificed a day of education in order to stand up for what they believe in.

"The skills and the lessons learnt from organising and participating in something like this today are life lessons which will stay with students forever," she said.

"They will learn about participation, about the importance of their voice and being part of a democracy."

 

 

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