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Last Friday, my sister spoke at Springwood’s School Strike 4 Climate. In fact, she was one of the main organisers of the event. She, at 15 years old, stood in her school uniform and spoke with the authority and respect many people claim that Cabinet lacks. She was meticulous, solemn and strong. And she has done this out of her own fear for the future.
So when I flick open my Twitter feed to see our Prime Minister dismiss the anxiety that spurs Chloe’s speech, I feel sick. Let me tell you why.
Firstly, any critique of the School Strike for Climate stems from a moral high ground. The commentators jeer that kids should be learning the real truth at school, and even if that truth leads them to the facts of climate change, they say ,‘what a shame it is that our education system is letting them down’. They’re complaining that these students don’t have the agency to make these decisions, and if they do, then they must be misinformed anyway.
Yet, when we look to the people making these critiques, they seem to be sourcing their arguments from the types of narrow newsfeeds they so disparage. We need only look at the shock jocks and tabloids that dominate Australia’s media scape. How diverse are their sources? Do they have the same consensus that climate science relies on? Where’s the true echo chamber here?
My stomach churns over again when I think about the divide between logic and emotion that pollies like ScoMo seem so eager to enforce. He claims that these kids carry the catch cries of fear and anxiety, stirred by the Left. Yet, what his argument refuses to hear is the calculated, logical arguments that these kids have made before. Look, Chloe said, at how early bushfire season began this year (two months earlier, to be exact). Listen to the leaders of Pacific Nations who know the very real threats that rising sea levels have to their country. Read the countless reports, recommendations and resolutions that say we must act now to stay under the two degree limit.
But these rational arguments aren’t enough. And they never have been – because politics has never been purely a pragmatic game. It is concerned with the sentiment of the people, and in the end, emotion is what a lot of elections are won on. Indeed, what is ‘the fair go’ if not an Australian dream that we all feel attached to? Politics is not just about logic and practicality, but is about what we feel too.
So to say that these students are just being emotional is an unfair characterisation. It says that their fear isn’t worthy of being counted as political – where most other emotions are.
This leads me to my final point. The short term vision of this Parliament is what really makes me green. Of course, there is the direct threat to the future that Chloe and I will inherit that scares me. Of course. But what worries me most is that Chloe thinks that her voice is not important. That no one will ever listen, and that there’s no point in fighting what is unfair and unjust. That’s a problem bigger than a queasy stomach. It’s an idea that infects and erodes the very pluralism that democracy is built on.
So Chloe, your words are important. This movement is important. See you at the next strike.