Re: “Students skip classes for climate action,” March 7
I am a Grade 10 student who attended the school climate strike in Nelson. While I want to thank you for your coverage of the event, I feel that framing the student strike as “skipping school” gives a negative connotation to the event and the students’ reasons for attending.
I personally struggled with my decision to miss a day of classes, but I feel it was vital to attend the event and join my peers in sharing the importance of protecting the environment. When adults strike for wage increases and better work conditions, there’s an understanding that there is a valid reason for their absence from work. As students, school is our work, so I feel that our strike should be treated with the same respect. Therefore, I think that it is necessary to consider your choice of language in future coverage to ensure that the strong opinions we youth have are not diminished.
The problem with fixing blame
Kudos to Nelson public school students who walked out of their classes in solidarity with the global student movement sparked by Greta Thunberg. However, some of the statements I see them making concern me. “You adults messed up the world, you fix it,” for example. This assumes that all adults are equally responsible for global climate disruption, when in fact, many adults have been working hard for decades for more sustainable government policies and better regulated industry.
Who do you think started Greenpeace and many other NGOs? My partner worked for environmental NGOs all of her working career until a few years ago, by which time she was simply burnt out. With her university degree, she could have chosen far more lucrative occupations, but her heart called her to work for the protection of wilderness and endangered species. It’s hardly her fault — or the fault of her entire generation — that governments became corrupt slaves of business and industry to the detriment of the environment.
The problem with fixing blame is that it polarizes people, something that is happening on all sides of the political spectrum right now. As long as we fall prey to the black-or-white, good-vs-evil mentality, we create an adversarial situation that makes it almost impossible to achieve any forward momentum. Polarization creates enemies, and once you’ve done that, you have a fight on your hands, not a collaboration. Research shows that polarization is affecting families, workplaces, schools, neighbourhoods, and religious organizations, tearing apart the fabric of our society.
I hope teachers are explaining how some of the greatest social advances of our society came from a unified voice during the difficult period known as the Great Depression in the 1930s. This solidarity was created largely under the banner of unions, who united people to rally for decent wages, health care, welfare and unemployment insurance, most of which didn’t exist prior to that decade. Let’s not fall into the trap of “divide and rule” being used by the one per cent to prevent us achieving any broad solidarity against them.