School climate strikes: What next for the latest generation of activists?

February 19, 2019 by Marc Hudson, The Conversation
The summer 2018 heatwave helped inspire more radical action on climate change. Credit: Savo Ilic / shutterstock

School students across the UK (and the world) went on strike on February 15, leaving their lessons to protest the lack of effective action on climate change. Coordinated school strikes may be a novel tactic, but mass environmental activism isn't. So will things be any more successful this time around?

The first big global wave of ecological concern began in the late 1960s and involved fears of overpopulation, air and water pollution and the extinction of species. It peaked with the 1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment, which kicked off international environmental politics.

The next mass movement began in the late 1980s with concerns over the ozone hole, Amazonian deforestation and newly-voiced fears of – then known as the "greenhouse effect". That wave peaked with the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, which sought to tackle both global warming and biodiversity, and marked the beginning of coordinated through the UN. That conference was addressed by a passionate and articulate young woman representing "ECO" – the Environmental Children's Organization:

From about 2006 to 2010 there was another, climate specific wave, beginning with Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth documentary, and groups like Climate Camp in the UK. It climaxed (or fizzled out) with the 2009 UN climate summit in Copenhagen. This wave saw the creation of various "Youth Climate Coalition" organisations in Australia and the UK.

In academic terminology these periods of concern and relative indifference are known as the "Issue Attention Cycles".

A new wave of activism

This latest wave of climate action emerged in 2018, in the shape of Extinction Rebellion and its French cousin (or inverse) the gilets jaunes. Earlier in the year, Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg had begun her solo "school strike" in Stockholm while, more or less simultaneously, activists in America launched the "Zero Hour" youth climate march.

Alongside this activism, the IPCC released its report on what it would take to keep below 1.5℃, and Mother Nature lent a hand with blistering hot summers in the UK, California and (more recently) Australia.

Previous bursts of environmental activism occurred before climate breakdown had been quite so obvious and severe. This time round, the heatwaves, hurricanes and floods will keep coming, perhaps making the latest wave of enthusiasm last longer.

12-year-old Severn Cullis-Suzuki addresses the 1992 Rio Summit.
Maintaining momentum

But what goes up must come down, and the students will find that it is very hard indeed to sustain emotional and physical mobilisation for a prolonged period. Right now, this issue is roughly where the Parkland shooting protests were last year – newsworthy for now, but the media caravan will inevitably move on.

That has consequences: when protests and actions stop getting the same amount of attention, and it seems that momentum is stalling, internal disagreements as to what is the best way forward, beyond a cycle of marches and symbolic strikes, will emerge, and will need to be managed skilfully. Some will want to work "within the system" and get invited onto advisory panels and into consultative processes. Others will have to get on with real life (university, paying the rent, working on, ah, zero-hour contracts).

On one front, the young are lucky – their age means it is hard to see any direct infiltration and "strategic incapacitation" by undercover police. But the flip side is that social media offers virtually limitless surveillance possibilities.

One possibility is an attempt to discredit and demoralise those who seem vulnerable. Elements of special interests like the oil and gas industry often try to "pick off" individual scientists or activists rather than take on a whole field – climate scientist Michael Mann has dubbed this the Serengeti Strategy as it resembles lions hunting the weakest zebras. We are already seeing this strategy in the latest wave of climate activism: recently Greta Thunberg had to address some rumours being circulated about her.

Youth activists also face the problem that they may annoy their parents and grandparents. Yet before offering advice to the young, we have to ask ourselves, why should they listen to us? We've known about the problem and either been ineffective or done nothing. It is children who are owed an enormous apology and expression of humility.

So for the latest generation of climate campaigners, my top four pieces of advice (see here for a longer list), based on both my activism and my time in academia, are as follows:

  • Be aware of emotions. People won't be persuaded just by being given more information on global temperatures or carbon budgets – psychological skills will matter too.
  • Your parents are probably wrestling with fear (aren't we all?) and guilt for not having sorted this out before you had to. Fear and guilt make can make people oscillate from action to inaction, pessimism to optimism.
  • Traditional "social movement" activities (marches, petitions, protests, camps) have a short shelf-life. The media gets bored and stops reporting. Meanwhile, those in power learn how to cope with the pressure. Be very careful about getting drawn into the Big Marches In London syndrome. You're going to need to innovate, repeatedly.

Even though time is short, this is still a marathon, not a sprint.

But what would you say? How should we older people offer advice, when, who to, and about what? Suggestions in the comments please.

Explore further: 'Keep it in the ground': What we can learn from anti-fossil fuel campaigns

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MR166
2 / 5 (4) Feb 19, 2019
Protesting children......what a monument to modern brain washing techniques.
jonesdave
4 / 5 (4) Feb 19, 2019
Protesting children......what a monument to modern brain washing techniques.


Yep. It just proves that however much money the right wing politicos, backed by oil money,use to try to obfuscate and confuse, that even children can see through their avarice driven lying.
jonesdave
3.7 / 5 (3) Feb 19, 2019
You wait until it dawns on some of these dickwads that these kids will be old enough to vote soon.
zz5555
5 / 5 (2) Feb 19, 2019
You wait until it dawns on some of these dickwads that these kids will be old enough to vote soon.

My daughter will be voting in the next presidential election.
jonesdave
5 / 5 (2) Feb 19, 2019
https://news.gall...ied.aspx

And you can bet that it'll be even higher in the < 18s.
MR166
2 / 5 (4) Feb 19, 2019
"My daughter will be voting in the next presidential election."

Well I hope she is informed enough to make the correct choice. Her freedom and the freedom of the entire US depends on it. If not hello One World Government.
jonesdave
3 / 5 (2) Feb 19, 2019
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^Lol.
greenonions1
3 / 5 (2) Feb 19, 2019
Well I hope she is informed enough to make the correct choice
Surely most people hope that people who are voting - are informed enough to make the 'correct' choice. That term (correct choice) sounds very Orwellian - doesn't it. Perhaps even Naziesqu. "You vill make ze correct choice - or ve have a nice education camp for you to visit" My view is that the better the education system - the better informed people can become. It is about creativity and critical thinking skills. I work in the U.S. education system - sighhhhhhh..
MR166
2 / 5 (4) Feb 19, 2019
" I work in the U.S. education system - sighhhhhhh.."

Why does that not surprise me ? You, with to other 90% of teachers, share one common view. Even the words "correct choice" as it pertains to US freedoms is abhorrent to you.
MR166
2.3 / 5 (3) Feb 19, 2019
" I work in the U.S. education system - sighhhhhhh.."

Why does that not surprise me ? You, with 90% of the other teachers, share one common view. Even the words "correct choice" as it pertains to US freedoms is abhorrent to you.

zz5555
5 / 5 (1) Feb 19, 2019
Well I hope she is informed enough to make the correct choice. Her freedom and the freedom of the entire US depends on it. If not hello One World Government.

She is. She understands that climate change is a serious threat to our society. If we ignore it too long, we'll be forced to go the route of geoengineering. Geoengineering is, by its nature global. Nations would fight over what to do. Like Russia, China, India, and the US. You know, nuclear powers. In order to get geoengineering to succeed, we would need one very powerful worldwide force that can maintain the peace and allow geoengineering to take place. So, by delaying action on global warming/climate change, you are pushing us towards one world government. My daughter's not an idiot, so she understands all this.
antigoracle
2.6 / 5 (5) Feb 19, 2019
I once wondered why caring parents sent their innocent children to suffer the most abominable abuse from their church. Well, I wonder no more, for such is the fallibility of the blind faithful, and so it continues with the AGW Cult.
I looked at that longer list of advice, linked in the article, and not once did it recommend educating yourself, but instead chose to denounce the system and the educated. That is the tried and proven method of any "good" cult, to enslave their faithful in perpetual ignorance so that they remain blind to the truth.
granville583762
5 / 5 (3) Feb 19, 2019

Ooh, the kids got a day of school

Well
back to school in the morning
what was it they went on strike again, they will be asking each other
its obvious
a day on the beach
is far more interesting
than
mathematical algebra: ?+?/?=?
may be
if
these kids
studied more
on energy production not involving burning carbon
which means less strikes
may be a solution to energy production will be found
even
so
A day sunbathing at the beach Trumps lessons

p.s. The next President will be the one who pledges climate strikes during school time
On sunny days, naturally!
greenonions1
1 / 5 (1) Feb 19, 2019
You, with 90% of the other teachers, share one common view
What is that one common view that I share MR?
Even the words "correct choice" as it pertains to US freedoms is abhorrent to you
Well you did not elaborate on what you meant by 'correct choice' did you? So what is abhorrent to me - is one person - telling another person - what the 'correct choice' is. Unlike you - I think I truly respect freedom of thought. You seem to want to dictate to others - how they should think. In my view - a robust education system - is not afraid of letting people think for themselves. It is like the butterfly story. Let it go - and if it comes back to you - then it is truly yours. As an atheist - I am not allowed to mention the fact that there are some people in the world who do not believe in god. You yanks are so afraid of real free thought.
MR166
2.3 / 5 (3) Feb 19, 2019
" a robust education system - is not afraid of letting people think for themselves"

If that was what the US was producing I would have no complaints.

Instead we are producing Oompa Loompas all dancing to the same PC tune.
MR166
3 / 5 (2) Feb 19, 2019
https://www.zeroh...-are-now

Does this look like and "enlightened" society and "robust" educational system?
greenonions1
not rated yet Feb 19, 2019
If that was what the US was producing I would have no complaints
I completely agree with you.
Instead we are producing Oompa Loompas all dancing to the same PC tune[q/] Again - we are in agreement - although I suspect we might disagree on the nature of that tune. But agreed - we are certainly not turning out graduates - with particularly good skills in the areas of creativity - and critical thinking. Hence our poor scores in science and math - relative to other countries.
Now - you accused me of sharing a common view with 90% of other teachers. I asked you what that common view is. Crickets....
MR166
3 / 5 (2) Feb 19, 2019
"Now - you accused me of sharing a common view with 90% of other teachers. I asked you what that common view is. Crickets..."

Well Onions let's see, do you think that anyone who wants to control our borders and enforce our immigration laws is selfish and or a racist? If so you might be among the 90% i.e. vote democratic.
greenonions1
not rated yet Feb 19, 2019
do you think that anyone who wants to control our borders and enforce our immigration laws is selfish
No - I support a country having control over the people who enter or leave that country. I support enforcement of immigration laws.

So what makes you say that 90% of teachers think that anyone who wants to control our borders... is selfish and racist? Where is your evidence? Otherwise - you really look stupid don't you? - making assertions without any kind of support!
MR166
1 / 5 (1) Feb 19, 2019
90% of teachers support democrats the very same democrats who want to end border enforcement.
Ken_Fabian
not rated yet Feb 20, 2019
When top level expert reports and studies confirm the reality and seriousness of the climate problem and our leaders turn aside from that we have a climate problem that is much harder to address effectively. Throwing it back on an apathetic and ill informed public was a way to avoid responsibility - now the public is less apathetic and a next generation of voters is demanding action they don't like it. Good.

As for Progressives vs Conservatives - I WANT Conservatives to take that advice seriously and contribute constructively to solutions; the "Climate Concerned" are not innately left leaning and when the Right join it will better reflect the politics of the broader community.

The Left taking mainstream science seriously is a good thing. The Right refusing to participate because taking consistent mainstream science seriously somehow looks like agreeing with the 'green-left' is much more childish than anything these School Strike for Climate kids are doing.
Ken_Fabian
5 / 5 (1) Feb 20, 2019
MR166 - When US Republicans have a real policy for dealing with the climate problem then people concerned about it will be more likely to vote Republican. They don't so they won't.

This isn't about left vs right or socialism vs capitalism - no matter how much some people want it to be. It is about responsibility and accountability for the world's No.1 waste product - CO2. Accountability is not just compatible with Democracy, the Rule of Law and Free Enterprise, it is an essential ingredient.

Innovative entrepreneurship remains the best thing we have going - and fixing the climate problem will see capitalist businesses making profits.
julianpenrod
2.3 / 5 (3) Feb 20, 2019
In the Sixties, it was a joke that these "strikes" were just a way for shiftless students to avoid school.
And, consider, how many of these young people engage in activities with what are called huge "carbon footprints"?
Too, if the young people really did care, they would also look into chemtrails. People are told and what is often called "bullied" into not accepting they are real, but there is absolutely no evidence they are anything other than doping of the air with weather modification chemicals.
Note, too, the material on handling the situation. Basically, just techniques frauds use to convince the gullible that what they're selling isn't snake oil.
greenonions1
5 / 5 (2) Feb 20, 2019
MR
90% of teachers support democrats
you make an assertion - but you provide no evidence. Please provide support.
A quick google brought this up for me - https://www.edwee...-12.html
Forty one percent of respondents described themselves as Democrats while another 30 percent said they were independents. Just 27 percent were Republicans.
Ken_Fabian
5 / 5 (3) Feb 21, 2019
It is very simple. Teachers accepting and passing on to students what top level science institutions - all of them, up to and including the US National Academy of Sciences - say about the climate problem is right. Turning aside from that and NOT teaching them, or teaching them Doubt, Deny, Delay themes and memes, is wrong.
jonesdave
3.7 / 5 (3) Feb 21, 2019
Too, if the young people really did care, they would also look into chemtrails.


Nobody is that f***ing dumb! Lol.
Ken_Fabian
not rated yet Feb 21, 2019
(Duplicate post deleted)

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