GUEST BLOG: Donna Awatere Huata – Secondary Principals Council must not punish climate change striking students

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


    • gee jays don’t you believe in giving people a 2nd chance many NZders voted for a government that denied for 9 yrs we had a housing crisis even though we could see people living in their cars and dumb f … wits still kept voting for them. They had 3 terms to deliver what they promised our brighter future and what did they do, divide and conquer good old colonial shit

    • Jay are you attacking the person or what is in the article.

      Surely the role of James Morris as a supposed educator is a point for discussion.

  1. 100% agree with Donna. These young kiwis some of whom maybe future social and political leaders are fulfilling a vital civic duty which may affect the future direction of climate change adaptation. This participation in civic participation will be of immense educational value for themselves and also the older more apathetic kiwis.

    James Morris, the chairman of the NZ Secondary Principals Council’s reaction is anti democratic, authoritarian and a desire to dumb down our bright and idealistic youth into a sheople complacency and conformity a further ” she’ll be right mate!” attitude. This is to prepare them to become corporate cogs in the Planet destroying system now being belatedly challenged worldwide.

    Kids will strike for the planet on March 15
    Young folks are mad as heck, and they’re letting adults know.

    What is civic education?

    Iceberg twice the size of NYC to break off from Antarctica – TomoNew

    • ‘James Morris….. This is to prepare them to become corporate cogs in the Planet destroying system now being belatedly challenged worldwide.’

      ‘Planet destroying system’, yes.

      However, the current planet-destroying system obviously must come to an end quite soon because of diminishing returns.

      A decade from now today’s young people will be living in a very different from what they are being encouraged to believe it will be, as resources become severely constrained and the environment ‘collapses’ under the strain of around 440 ppm atmospheric CO2 and whatever additional damage industrial humans managed to do over the coming years.


    • 100+% Jay and AFKTT.

      Climate is but one of the growing number of obvious concerns regarding future survival.

      Fertile Soil loss followed by growing food shortage and starvation
      Systems of local food production destroyed by commercialisation
      Population growth which is in over shoot and near peak
      A failed and destructive economic model that the 1% cling to
      Political control based on money created out of the blue by a predatory system
      Pollution created by industrialisation
      Massive waste created by a globalised system of trade
      Denial promoted by most global news sources
      Critical loss of biodeversity balance and accelerating species loss

      and the big one present patterns of human economics depends on

      Rapidly diminishing Non Renewable Natural Resources with nearly 75% used up since 1800.

      All the words about small changes to the present system are indicative of denial and ignorance. Time wasters.

      The crisis is now.

      Change will happen and we must get it underway to manage the scale of extreme pain. ahead.

      James Morris is a shallow arbitrator of denial, not an educator.

      Educators need courage and wisdom, not compliance with fellow fools.

      He needs to be replaced with a person who shows leadership.

  2. Ruining the next generation’s future has become so ingrained in the NZ consumer society that anything that challenges it must be seen as positive.

  3. A pertinent question:
    Does the Principals Council have the right to dictate to individual principals and schools how they will deal with this issue?
    It seems to me it is something that each school should decide.

  4. School Strike for Climate NZ comments on its website that the 2018 report of the Inter Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says that ”global mean temperature rise greater than 1.5 degrees celsius will cause widespread suffering and mass migration, irreversible damage to the natural world, and massive damage to the world economy. ‘ ( Already happening NOW!)

    True enough. But what they omit to say is that the IPCC reports also warns that we have then less than twelve years ( We’re actually out of time NOW) to effectively tackle climate change otherwise the planet will go beyond the 1.5 degrees celsius of warming( We are at 1.71c NOW). Indeed some commentators think that the IPCC are being optimistic. ( More like fantasy land) David Wallace-Wells, the author of The Uninhabitable Earth, says that the IPPC’s ‘worst case scenario is actually, a best case.” ( the worst case scenario is happening NOW not 12 years away)

    He comments: “What has been called a genocidal level of warming is already our inevitable future. The question is how much worse than that it will get … We are on track for four degrees of warming, more than twice as much as most scientists believe is possible to endure without inflicting climate suffering on hundreds of millions or threatening at least parts of the social and political infrastructure we call, grandly, ‘civilization’.”

    Faced with an imminent threat to planetary civilisation you would naturally think that School Strike For Climate would be demanding more than the timid and disastrous climate change policies that the Labour-led government is pursuing.

    We are already at 1.71c above the 1750 baseline and will sail through the 2c level and onwards to 2.5c and 3c. The momentum is unstoppable. This momentum will speed up further once we get our first ice free Arctic in the summer event as that ocean absorbs more solar heat rather than bouncing back out to space.

  5. Children just need to wake up and realise that they have no future.

    So agreed, they might as well strike all the time, because education is a complete waste of time.

  6. I kind of hope the principals council try to punish the kids – the blowback will be tremendous!

    It will provide extra motivation to the families involved and will encourage sympathy amongst other people.

    It’s very hard for the establishment to go up against the kids without looking like a bunch of bullies so it’s going to be very hard for them to work out a strategy – I couldn’t be more delighted!

  7. Donna, let’s assume for the sake of debate that climate change is a thing.

    So what are you proposing we should do about it?

    and hey, if anyone else has any practical proposals, I would like you to post them so we can review and discuss.

      • Pointless if the rest of the world doesn’t follow suit (and they won’t). NZ represents just 1/1000th of greenhouse emissions; the proverbial drop in the ocean.
        Who are the West to dictate that developing countries, like China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, most of Africa etc, effectively can’t catch up because they aren’t allowed to exploit cheap carbon-based energy like we have? It’s never going to fly. Poverty is a far more pressing issue than climate change and cheap energy does far more toward increasing standards of living than climate change is lowering it. Dealing with climate change has always been a better and more realistic option than trying to control it. Surely you can see that?

        • I don’t think that a paradigm shift as in prepping for climate change is pointless. The west if we have any logic and intelligence will use its wonders of the industrial world to further sustain and develop this wonderful world.

        • Nitri.
          Surely you cannot see that we are committing GHG at an increasing rate here in NZ.

          Not doing anything about it is what the kids are striking about.

  8. Andrew you’ve already asked this question. Don’t you like the factual responses? There is no point asking it again because the answers will be the same – see Frank’s response, which is spot on.

    Anyhow, I do not think you have the ability to debate this issue because you are fixated by your own blind to the truth beliefs.

  9. Donna:
    > 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

    When a former ACT MP says that the free market has failed, there’s no question that it has. So what policy are our fearless leaders putting forward to deal with this market failure? What do we know about their policy? Can we improve on it?

    Reporting in any way on the climate change strike without including some substantial policy information is sensationalism, not journalism. It makes the public more cynical and partisan, not more informed and empowered to act:

  10. I came across this listening to a podcast recently, that seems to address the issues of “the market” with a paper ‘Climate mitigation policy as a system solution: addressing the risk cost of carbon’ by Delton B. Chen, Joel van der Beek & Jonathan Cloud.
    It is somewhat over my head but it stuck me as being a worthy concept for consideration by the powers that be?

    In the opening paragraph “Climate change poses deep risks to human welfare and ecosystems, and it has been described as a wicked problem for reasons relating to its complex relationships, fragmentation of social responses, and an apparent absence of a policy toolkit for decarbonising the economy to a specific carbon quota. In response to the various challenges of the wicked problem, this exposition confronts the central question of how climate finance could be most effectively mobilised to respond to the 1.5–2°C”

    The paper is available here: Chen-Beek-Cloud_SystemSolutionAddressingtheRiskCostofCarbon.pdf

    • Joanna

      The trolls for big Oil and business NZ on this forum pay no heed to information kindly provided to help their understanding.

      • Very True John W!! I recognise that it is an utter waste of time to bother with “those types”, their agenda is well fixed! And thanks for posting the url properly, do you think there is validity in the paper for consideration by potentially, our coalition government?

        • Joanne the paper has so many holes in it that it is not worth reading.

          More neo liberal chatter that has no basis for the promised continuing growth they take pains to argue.

          Economic models are independent of complex interactions of real world environmental destruction that growth must produce.

          The market can be reinvented by tweaking to fix all problems – hardly.

          Just another load if diatribe to say BAU is OK if we just do this or that, all will be fine.

          The combination of consequences of man kinds exploitation of the environment over the last 200 + years is not mentioned as such nor does it even discus the interactions between the various industrial polluting activities, Resource depletion, wilderness reduction, habitat destruction, species decline nor food production with accelerating loss of fertile soil. let alone ocean acidification, ice melt, population over shoot and growing global inequality and wars.

          There is lots of stuff around of this ilk.

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