A report from the #SchoolStrike: First in our new AlterNatives strand - personal stories of making change
We’re happy to announce a new strand on the Daily Alternative - AlterNatives. We’re sharing the personal testimony and stories of those who are committed to alternative ways of being, small p, political. This could mean new practices, behaviours, structures or cultures. Or just how it feels to be at the forefront of change. Get in touch if you are ready to relate your first hand experiences in your own words and images.
The first is from Dave Prescott, Senior Advisor at The Partnering Initiative. Dave approved of, and joined, his daughter on the School Strike late last week. Here’s his AlterNative story.
THE CLIMATE IS CHANGING, WHY AREN’T WE?
Words: Dave Prescott
Pictures: Billie Charity
It gives you mixed feelings, as a parent, witnessing your twelve-year old child campaigning against the end of the world. You are ridiculously proud of them, but you’re implicated.
On Friday, my daughter was one of around 60 children who took ‘unauthorised absences’ from at least four local schools in and around Hay-on-Wye, a tiny town on the Welsh border with a strong independent streak. The children joined an estimated 10,000 children in the UK, and another 60,000 across Europe, all inspired by the example of Greta Thunberg.
When my daughter said she wanted to take part, I said to her: this is not some jolly. If you are going to strike then we’ll support it and take the flak from the school, but you have to do it for the right reasons. She looked straight back at me with a look of humbling defiance. She said we are losing 200 species a day, and it might only be small animals at the moment, but what about the rest of the animals? Then, she told me she was doing it for her unborn children.
Before the strike, there was a surreal day spent making dozens of banners. Around 20 children gathered along with parents who were, largely, standing around trying to know what to do with themselves, while these revolutionaries decided to take matters into their own hands, on behalf of the planet.
Earlier in the week, we’d received an irate message from the headmistress, stating that any children who were striking on Friday would be marked down as ‘unauthorised absences’ and demanding to know ‘who were the organisers’. It may just be coincidence, but after that note, it seemed like the number of strikers doubled.
Last week, among the outpouring of support for these brave children from many quarters, over 200 academics wrote a letter in support of those going on strike.
The head was in a difficult position. Privately, along with many of the teachers, it was possible that she supported the children, who were demonstrating off-the-charts levels of civic responsibility. However, school funding is tied to attendance, so what else could she do? It’s not as if the whole school could have gone on strike…
Schools seem to be doing a great job in producing a generation of environmentally connected people, in spite of the tremendous headwinds blowing from Westminster. And it is the politicians who are in the line of fire from these children. 21 councils around the UK have already declared a ‘climate emergency’: the children are calling on governments at all levels to follow suit.
They bring a no-bullshit clarity to the debate that is going to be impossible for politicians to ignore. After all, it’s not as if we don’t know how to sort out this mess, we’re just not doing it.
Children just seem to instinctively understand this stuff. Environmental concerns have been internalised for the younger generation to an extent that mostly hasn’t happened with adults. We get cynical, we suspect motives, we doubt sincerity, we are suspicious, we question the science, we find so many reasons not to respond to climate change.
But children can see for themselves that things are going wrong. Paul Hawken has written about ‘the planet’s immune system waking up’: these children are the antibodies against human self-destruction.
Of course, when children are not being antibodies against human self-destruction, they can be pretty annoying. They spend too much time on their phones, they don’t eat properly, they are messy and cheeky, and all the usual caveats apply.
But witnessing my daughter on this strike, marching with tens of thousands of others, it really looks like a great turning is underway. I was reminded of the line in the film Magnolia, where Quiz Kid Donnie Smith cries: “It’s not dangerous to confuse children with angels.”