Legalbrief, 19 March, 2019
Climate Change: SA scholars protest global inaction
Thousands of school students across SA last week called on government to act against climate change. A TimesLIVE report notes that youths demonstrated at Parliament in Cape Town, the Union Buildings in Pretoria, and the Department of Energy in Durban. Similar protests took place on Friday in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and North America. The worldwide effort has been organised under the hashtag#ClimateStrike. In Cape Town, over a thousand learners from numerous schools across the province gathered with bright coloured posters outside Parliament. Sarah Farrel, one of the organisers, said the protesters were demanding that government halt new fossil fuel projects. They also called for much more renewable energy by 2030. ‘We want it to be right, front and centre, because it is exacerbating poverty. It is making peoples’ lives worse,’ she said. ‘When I was 11 years old, my parents took me on a trip around Africa, and because of that, I felt first-hand the dramatic effects of climate change,’ said Ruby Sampson, a Grade 12 student at Wynberg Girls High. Inspired by Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, Sampson joined the movement and started organising Cape Town to join the global protest. Thunberg started the #FridaysforFuture movement in August 2018. The movement mobilises learners across the globe to protest against climate change on Fridays.
Classrooms in capitals from Bangkok to Berlin and Lagos to London emptied as organisers of the student strike called demonstrations in more than 100 countries. A News24 report notes that students flooded into the streets across Europe, North and South America, and Asia carrying placards reading: ‘There is no planet B’, ‘You’re destroying our future’ and ‘If you don’t act like adults, we will’. In Stockholm, Thunberg warned that time was running out. ‘We are living through an existential crisis that has been ignored for decades and if we do not act now it may be too late,’ the 16-year-old, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, told Swedish public television station SVT. Montreal drew among the largest crowds, estimated by organisers at nearly 150 000. In the US, protests were more low-key, with events held in New York, Washington, Chicago, Portland, Oregon, and St. Paul, Minnesota, where one sign read: ‘So bad even introverts are here!’ In Sydney, 18-year-old Charles Rickwood warned that Australia’s Great Barrier Reef could be destroyed. European students were also out en masse. Several thousand youngsters thronged the streets of central London in a raucous demonstration with banners and placards. More than one m i l l i o n marched overall, according to estimates by organising groups such as the Youth For Climate movement and AFP reporters. The global action drew a mixed reaction from politicians. Germany’s Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said the demonstrators should be in class while Australia’s Education Minister Dan Tehan said striking was ‘not something that we should encourage’. But New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hailed the action, saying: ‘We hear you and we’re getting on with setting a path for carbon neutrality.’