Protest planning begins in suburbs

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Protest planning begins in suburbs

Protesters gathered at Brisbane's second School Strike for the Climate on September 20.

Protesters gathered at Brisbane's second School Strike for the Climate on September 20.

by Trina McLellan

Protesters gathered at Brisbane's second School Strike for the Climate on September 20.

by Trina McLellan

by Trina McLellan

Protesters gathered at Brisbane's second School Strike for the Climate on September 20.

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THERE’S the Extinction Rebellion rallies and civil disobedience around the globe. Then there’s now two international school strikes calling for action on climate change. But where do these massive protest movements begin, why are school children involved and how is it growing at a grass-roots level?

In the weeks ahead of the second worldwide school strike for climate, on Friday, September 20, Brisbane groups involved were busy convincing locals why they should join school students in protesting about inaction on what the United Nation’s has coined the climate emergency.

ime magazine’s May cover featured schoolgirl environmental activist Greta Thunberg.

Time magazine’s May cover featured schoolgirl environmental activist Greta Thunberg.

How did the global school strikes start?
While world leaders debated and dithered about climate change, it took a 15-year-old Swedish schoolgirl to really start the ball rolling last year when she sparked a global school walkout in protest and the response has been thundering.
In August last year, Greta Thunberg skipped school to demonstrate outside Sweden’s Parliament, holding up a sign calling for stronger climate action, staying there for three weeks until the Swedish elections were held.
Her concern for the planet was underscored by a series of heatwaves and wildfires that gave Sweden its hottest summer in 262 years.
After posting her actions on Instagram and Twitter, she wasn’t alone for long. Other students joined her.
Then school children in other communities followed their lead.
Together they rallied under the ‘Fridays for Future’ banner and their message has since been taken up around the globe.
Every week, somewhere around the world, mass student walkouts have continued to take place, at least two of which have attracted more than one million pupils.
Greta was invited to address the United Nations Climate Change Conference late in 2018 and earlier this year the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres even endorsed the school strikes initiated by the straight-shooting schoolgirl.
Nine months on from when she first began her one-woman public protest, Greta’s photo graced the cover of Time magazine and was described as one of the world’s “next generation of leaders”, something she proudly tweeted.

Ahead of the massive September 20 turnout, a variety of local groups keen to join the school students ran information sessions for interested individuals in the weeks leading up to the event.

Those briefings featured information from group members and from expert speakers, allowing participants to better grasp the complexities and challenges of climate change and the finer points of protesting.

Some of the flyers and posters advertising the Global Climate Strike rally on September 20.

by Ricco Caiulo
Some of the flyers and posters advertising the Global Climate Strike rally on September 20.

 

At one briefing held in Ashgrove, an inner-Brisbane suburb, members from the local Stop Adani group welcomed all-comers.

Attendees were told the information session was not only meant to get people out of their comfort zones about climate change, but also to showcase how protesting could create political change.

One of its speakers, Stop Adani member Dermot O’Gormon, shared a dire warning: “The world is changing, and it’s never going to be the same again.”

Moira Williams, who has been working on the Stop Adani campaign for years, also spoke at the briefing.

In her address, Moira said that history had shown that activating just 3.5 per cent of the population would create change.

Stop Adani Ashgrove member Moira Williams addressing her local Ashgrove community members

by Ricco Caiulo
Stop Adani Ashgrove member Moira Williams explained how the local community could help drive change.

 

“This equates to approximately 880,000 Australians, and that’s 460 people who live in Ashgrove who are needed to create that change,” she explained.

But getting people interested in taking action was still a challenge, even in leafy Ashgrove. This briefing saw only two dozen locals in attendance.

While local Julie Walker said she believed the main issue around climate change was the fact individuals felt their contribution would not change much.

The crowd attending the Stop Adani information briefing at the Newmarket bowls club in early September.

by Ricco Caiulo
The crowd attending the Stop Adani information briefing at the Newmarket bowls club in early September.

 

“People are thinking: ‘What effect can one person have? Why does it matter if I do it?’ ” Julie said.

“The government is just going to continue doing what they are doing. So, I think it is hard.

“I am even struggling to get the people I work with to acknowledge that there’s a problem.

“So, I think it’s just amazing that we managed to get all of these people together in one place.”

 

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Words: Ricco Caiulo
Images: Ricco Caiulo / The Argus; supplied

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Want to read more?
The original version of this story is one of 30 in a special online Climate Change edition of The Argus that was compiled by Queensland College of Art students from a final-year course called Transmedia Storytelling.