It was a nice day in Dunedin today (Fri, 24th May). Blue skies and about 15 or 16 degrees. We’ve seen very little of winter to date this year which is a little concerning.
At roughly 13:00 today (1 p.m. for those on the 12 hour clock) there was a School Strike for Climate protest in the Octagon in Dunedin. I went along.
I was not overly impressed with its organization and its compering. The main speaker/compere (Zac Rudin) and the first few who spoke were less than impressive, more interested in the tactics that they’ve obviously been taught in crowd manipulation than the topic at hand to which they gave no indication of knowing anything at all about. Of course the Climate Justice Ōtepoti crowd were there, in whatever incarnation they’re currently calling themselves. And no I don’t know why I just thought of them… but more about them in another post.
But once you got away from the main guys (Linea Simons was also one of the comperes) there was a little more substance in the middle period of the protest. Ben from Kings was the first speaker to actually show that he knew anything about the topic and gave a quite reasonable speech. When he walked off the stage (after the most impressive speech to that point – and to the end really) he was roundly ignored by the organizers. That’s rudeness in my eyes, but it also says something about these organizers in turn. Ben somewhat without thought then walked to the side of the Octagon to get his single use plastic bottle of water so hopefully he’ll work on that one in the future. But I definitely have more faith in Ben than I do in Zak, Abe or Linea (the three main ‘organizers*’) There was in addition a guy (whose name I’ve forgotten for now) who had written a rather impressive song on climate change (good enough to give Lennon’s ‘Give Peace a Chance’ a run for its money in my view) and who seemed to know the topic at hand. And a girl from St Hilda’s gave a speech that although delivered in a style that challenged its listeners to stay focused on it was reasonable enough. She just needs to work on her presentation. At least she came across as genuine and didn’t try her hand at a sporting chant. And just previous to these speeches there had been a girl who had sang two songs who was nervous but talented although I’m not sure that the lyrics of the second song were completely appropriate. But hell they’re only 16, I’ll give them a pass on that one. Which is more than I’m going to do for the Climate Justice crowd who had the last half hour or so of this protest with the very unimpressive Fin from Generation Zero (all these guys, they’re all guys, are in their 20s, a few might be early 30s) also claiming his 10 minutes.
Just a few more things to note though, the boys dominated (70-80% of the time allocation roughly, a fair swag of it attempts to get the chants going by Zac & Abe mostly) and everyone who spoke/compered was Pākehā. On the other hand girls seemed to dominate the students among the crowd (most of the crowd were students) and they seemed uninterested in the chants. The turnout was not great either, the crowd seemed somewhat small. It really could have been better done/organized. The problem may be that the evangelism (rather than activism) has been handed out to school students who are ill suited for it. All the organizers are from Logan Park High School when there are 13 high schools in the immediate Dunedin environs, which seems somewhat skewed. It’s also the closest high school to the University but no there’s no Geography staff in the parent cohort of these organizers (there is some Theology though). I may expand on this in another post later but this doesn’t look terribly grass roots. Nor does it look like its focus is science.
It all reminds me of the Childrens Crusade. Of course the younger generations are going to have to pay for the inability of environmentalists to win the war with capitalists (especially those in the extractive industries) over the last 50 years but let’s not kid ourselves that this is a generational conflict, it’s not. It’s about class. The poorest Indian (of any age) is living a sustainable life on this planet, probably on less than a tonne of carbon per year. Whereas the richest New York, Zurich, Singapore, Johannesburg, Auckland, Sydney or Saudi capitalists are personally responsible for thousands or more tonnes of carbon per year (each). If we all lived like they did the Earth would have been toast 100 years ago. It needs to be pointed out though that the average ‘Westerner’ is on around a still high 20 tonnes per year , and that figure tends to be higher in the Anglo world than elsewhere. If everyone lived our lifestyles we would also be toast albeit not quite as fast as a planet of profligate capitalists would have us .
We all (everyone) need to average something like two tonnes per year. That will involve shifts in diet, travel, food distribution, waste, transportation and recyclables and income distribution. Children do not have the expertise to address this one by themselves (although the energy capitalists seem to love the idea) and we all need to work together on it. For our sakes as much as theirs.
Please note that I’ve used ‘girl’ or ‘boy’ rather than ‘young woman’ or ‘young man’ here although I’m sure that they’re interchangeable. They were high school students.
- at the very least these three are getting coached by Climate Justice Otepoti (sorry but my macrons are not working) but I suspect there’s some parental coaching going on as well.