Students in New Zealand and Australia have walked out of class to begin a global school strike against climate change inaction. New Zealand’s prime minister has taken the unusual step of meeting with protest organizers.
Thousands of schoolchildren in Australia and New Zealand have kicked off the global Fridays for Future protest, demanding global leaders take action on climate change. The movement, started by 16-year-old Swede Greta Thunberg, is expected to see children, their parents and their supporters take to the streets in 1,500 cities in more than 100 countries.
In New Zealand, strike organizers said they were pleased after a meeting with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Climate Change Minister James Shaw, saying they believed their government would take positive steps.
“But this is a crisis and we need to start treating it as such,” they said in a statement.
A march in Christchurch, New Zealand was cut short by a lockdown after shootings at two local mosques. Participating students were confirmed to be safe, Mayor Lianne Dalziel told the New Zealand site Newshub.
Critics: Students should protest ‘after school or on weekends’
Children say they are walking out of school to bring greater attention to the impending crises that will have more of an impact on their generation than on those making current policy.
Ardern’s engagement has been unusual, as many politicians in countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States have chastised the children for missing a day of school.
“For action on issues that they think is important, they should do that after school or on weekends,” Australia’s Education Minister Dan Tehan told reporters ahead of protests in Melbourne.
In Germany, the leader of the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), Christian Lindner, went so far as to discourage the student’s political engagement. He was then mocked on social media for writing on Twitter that “politics is for professionals.”
Chancellor Angela Merkel, however, has backed the protests, calling it a “very good initiative.”
The Fridays for Future movement has become a global phenomenon since activist Greta Thunberg staged the first demonstration in front of the Swedish parliament building last August.
She came to worldwide attention when she was invited to address the UN Climate Conference in December. She has been nominated by three Norwegian lawmakers for the Nobel Peace Prize.
es/cmk (AFP, dpa)