James Morris, the chairman of the NZ Secondary Principals Council has stated that climate change striking students will have their absence marked as ‘unjustified’ if they take part in the global strike on March 15th.
This climate action has quickly spread across Europe, the UK, America, Australia and is now here in Aotearoa.
It would seem to me to be incongruent in the extreme to punish students for having a social conscience on what is the most urgent issue of our times. These brave young New Zealanders are striking to demand adults combat climate change meaningfully and they should be free to embark upon that activism without risk of school retribution.
The youth movement of children striking from school has been led by 16 year old Greta Thunberg from Sweden and 13 year old Alexandria Villasenor in America, their argument that there is no point staying at school if their future is doomed by catastrophic climate change forces a disruption to the frenzy of the immediate and offers a challenge to the present that must be acknowledged.
We are in a collective denial if we don’t understand the fact that we need to prime our culture, economy and society for radical climate change adaptation and these children, our children, the children who will face the most extreme points of a rapidly warming planet will be here facing this challenge long past the point many of us boomers are dead. These children are telling us in our 9-5 complacency of busy apathy that we can not ignore urgent action any longer.
Climate change has a face, and it is the face of your grandchildren, children, nieces, nephews, our mokopuna. It is their future we are robbing by refusing to engage in the change required now.
Another giant iceberg is calving off Antartica this week, last week headlines of the extinction of insects, next week more extreme weather events. When every alarm bell is ringing, telling children not to strike seems conceited in the worst possible arrogance.
We require an immediate re-evaluation of what adaptation efforts deserve Government support and attention because the free market has failed when it comes to climate change. We have a long way to plant 1 billion trees, and we need more. 100% renewable power and a vast expansion of solar are things that can happen now, but we fail to back the courage of our convictions and end up pragmatically paddling to stay afloat rather than forging ahead with leadership.
Our children are begging us to listen to the future we are blindly bequeathing them, a scorned earth too scorched to breath. This is the time to listen, not mark absence as ‘unjustified’.
Any student who gets into trouble with their school for attending the strikes on March 15th should contact my office and I will write letters to the schools and complain to the Ministry of Education, moving heaven and earth to remove any punishment.
Now is the time to celebrate champion and support our Children, not constrict their voice.
Donna Awatere Huata
Māori Climate Commissioner