no planet, no school: we spoke to the students behind the uk's school strike
On 15 February, thousands of school students around the UK went on strike for the climate, and demanded to be heard. Here are their voices.
Photography Ivan Ruberto
This article originally appeared on i-D UK.
On an unseasonably warm February day, thousands of students skipped school. They met up with friends and made signs with cardboard and bits of wood, they joined up with other students and together they protested loudly and eloquently. They did it because they are fed up. They’re fed up with the government doing nothing to stop climate change. They’re fed up with their future being threatened at the expense of political power and big business.
Greta Thunberg, the girl who started the youth strike for climate movement, says it’s time to panic. i-D went to the strike in London and spoke to students who couldn’t agree with her more.
Natanya Popoola, 16
Why are you striking? I’m striking because climate change is a serious issue that we need to be aware of, and the youth that’ll be able to vote soon have to start taking a stand.
Why is it okay to skip school for this? School happens five days a week, and I’ve got two and half years of it left. Climate change will affect us forever.
Are you going to keep striking, and what other climate activism are you planning? If I can, I’d like to attend the one happening in March. In terms of activism I’d love to take further steps, I just have no idea of what direction I’d take.
Greta Thunberg says we need to panic, what do you think about that? I agree.
Arthur Ganjei, 11
Why did you strike for the climate? Because we’ve only got 12 years till all this is irreversible and that’s my lifetime so far, and I’m not that old!
Why is it okay to skip school for this? No planet, no school.
This is a powerful youth-led movement -- how does being at the strike make you feel? It feels empowering and inspiring and it shows that there is hope.
What change do you want? I want the government to realise that this is a major problem and I want renewable energy and the elimination of the major fossil fuel companies!!!
Hanna Macleod, 15
Why did you strike for the climate, and is it your first climate strike? Yes, this is my first school protest and I came because I believe very strongly that unless we do something about this now, nothing we do in school will matter.
Are you going to keep striking? Hopefully I will be able to. I feel if there are too many strikes on school days, the protests could be less effective. However, striking as well as doing small things, such as going vegan and not littering, both of which I aim to achieve, are the most effective ways to help as individuals.
How does being at this strike, a youth-led movement, make you feel? With younger people not being able to vote or have a say with the way the world works, it feels like one of the first times we’re being heard.
Greta Thunberg says it’s time to panic. What do you think about that? Hope isn’t enough. We can hope all we want, but panicking is what needs to be done to get everyone’s attention and do something urgently.
Benji Bream, 16
Why are you striking today? For change.
Why is it okay to skip school for this? It’s important.
How does being at the strike make you fee? Empowered AF.
Sasha Ahuja, 17
Why are you striking today? We believe it's important to unite as a generation as it's the only way our voices will be heard.
Why is it okay to skip school for this? If that is what brings attention to the seriousness of our cause, so be it. It's nice knowing we are part of change, instead of in a maths lesson.
How do you feel about the drastic changes we'll have to take to avert disaster? Willing. It can't be taken lightly, we have to realise the seriousness.
What change do you want? I'm very passionate about the use of plastic, recycling, and mass production of these things that infiltrate the ecosystem. I want more environmental regulations for factories.
Greta Thunberg says we need to panic, what do you think about that? Yes! We have to. It's a jarring thought, but inevitably true.
Hannah Grange, 16
Why did you strike for the climate? Climate change will be the ultimate decider of our future, over all other politics. I’ll keep striking.
Why is it okay to skip school for this? One day off school for a lifetime of change.
How does being at the strike make you feel? Empowered, like I have a voice that is valued and echoed by many others.
How do you feel about the drastic changes we’ll have to make to avert a complete climate disaster? They are essential for our future. Nothing is too drastic.
Bianca Prado Fiestas, 14
Why are you striking today? Because the government isn’t doing enough for the planet. People are dying around the world -- not only people, but innocent animals. We were promised change, now we are demanding it.
How does being at the strike make you feel? Empowered, and proud of my generation. We are the generation of change and nothing is going to stop us now. This strike is one of many other movements in the future.
Are you going to keep striking? I definitely am going to keep striking and I plan to support the Youth Parliament as well. I will be getting involved with as much climate activism as I can!
Luca Burgess, 16
Why are you striking today? I’m striking to get the government to realise how much we need to act.
Why is it ok to skip school for this? Why have an education if you don’t have a planet?
Are you going to keep striking? I’m going to strike every Friday until significant change is made.
How do you feel about the drastic changes we’ll have to make to avert a complete climate disaster? We need to do whatever’s necessary.
LilaRose Marcuson, 15, Aoife Davey Gunn, 16, Sophie Boon, 15 Caitlin Wong, 16, Nina Benjamin, 16
Why did you strike for the climate?
LilaRose: I striked for climate change because it’s our future we need to consider, and at the rate our world is contributing to the climate change, it’s become a bigger part of what we need to actively do to prevent it getting more and more drastic. It was my first political strike and I went because I can see how much of a problem it is and that we have to actively stand up and be heard.
Why was it ok to skip school for this? Aoife: It was a relatively difficult decision to make for me, especially due to my mum being a teacher herself. In the end, I decided it was such an important issue that it deserved a day off of school. Seeing lots of people from my school and other schools in my area take a day off to protest was heartwarming and definitely showed me that i made the right decision. Climate change is such an important issue and it is almost getting overshadowed by other current affairs, and I believe that we needed to put that spotlight on it to raise awareness and to help push politicians into making changes to help us save our planet. One day off school to save the planet isn’t too bad of a bargain.
What change do you want in terms of climate action? Sophie: One change that I and a lot of other people would like to see is cutting down on the use of fossil fuels and having a vast majority of our electricity and fuel come from renewable sources such as solar power and wind power. A change like this would have an immensely positive impact on the planet and could stop us from reaching the point of no return. Another change I am hopeful to see is the use of plastic straws and bags dropping. Plastic products like these are very detrimental to the planet as they take hundreds of years to decompose and if they end up in the ocean, they can kill vast amounts of sea life.
How do you feel about the drastic changes we’ll have to make to avert a complete climate disaster? Caitlin: The changes we will need to avert climate change will be hard. Cutting down on the use of substances that millions globally rely on day and night in such a drastic way will be difficult for everyone, regardless of personal use. However, I think that the discomfort of these changes will most definitely be worth the outcome, as continuing on in this way is unsustainable and is having irreversible and destructive effects on the planet. If we want to keep the Earth alive, we MUST make these changes.
Are you going to keep striking, and what other climate activism are you planning? Nina: I do plan to keep striking! I plan to go on more marches and demonstrations about all sorts of subjects. Activism is so important to me! We are all 16, meaning we can’t vote. Skipping school and protesting is the only power we have. We don’t get to cross the ballot but we all have voices. There are many more climate marches coming up and I plan to attend them. I believe we are proving to the older generations that we are willing to fight about a cause we are passionate about. We showed them that young people care about their futures! I really hope we left an impact on the government, climate change affects the young people and the upcoming generations, I don’t think the youth will give up this fight. At least I won’t!
Daniel Mackenzie, 16
Why are you striking? I went on strike because the lack of action regarding climate change has put the world in a position where ignoring the problem would have catastrophic consequences. Unfortunately, the government seems to think that ensuring the continued stability of the Earth's ecosystem, and thus all life on Earth, isn't that big of an issue, so we have to make it an issue for them through depriving them of what they want, which is for young people to stay seated in classrooms where they can't have an impact or have their voices heard.
How do you feel about the drastic changes we’ll have to make to avert a complete climate disaster? I think it's appalling that we have been put in such a situation. While I think that, given the right action and recognition of the issue by governments worldwide, it's possible to fix the damage done, the fact that people have refused to act for so long when it's such a small group of people responsible for the majority of the damage is horrific, and needs to be met with serious measures to prevent actions like this from continuing.
What change do you want? I want the severity of the issue to be recognised by governments worldwide, and to be reflected in their policies, as well as for the groups and individuals responsible for the damage done to be held to account. Both those directly responsible for causing the ongoing damage to our planet and those who have the power to stop them yet turn a blind eye to their actions, should be treated appropriately for what they have done; that is, wilfully endangered the safety of all life on Earth, exploited limited natural resources for their own personal gain, and failed upon their duty of ensuring a safe and stable future for the next generation.
Sophia Bizos, 18 and Jemima Taswell-Fryer, 17
Why did you strike for the climate? Sophia: The government has not recognised how serious climate change really is. Though we are reducing our impact on the environment as a country, it is simply not enough. The MET office predicts that by 2050 there will be 130 million people extra per year displaced due to sea level rise. A quarter of those will be in Asia. Seafood stocks will be completely depleted by that point too. We are killing our planet and in turn ourselves, yet prioritising the interests of trade and business. If we don’t act now we will soon regret it.
How do you feel about the drastic changes we’ll have to make to avert a complete climate disaster? Jemima: Of course no one can deny the immense task we are faced with when it comes to climate change; we’ve reached a point where a complete overhaul in the way we approach consumerism and the economy is needed. But when faced with a choice between a major lifestyle or losing our planet, there really doesn’t seem to be a choice at all. We should all be willing to do what it takes to preserve our planet. Although unfortunately there is very little evidence to suggest people are prepared to make drastic lifestyle changes based on a moral imperative.
Olivia Bury, 16
Why did you strike for the climate? No one in power is acknowledging the crisis we are living in, or that without serious action young people genuinely may not have a future. Governments worldwide are more concerned with major corporations and cheaper energy sources than the destruction of the planet. It is so important to actively turnout, participate and disrupt in spaces and events like these to show the government that this is a genuine concern of its citizens and to hold them accountable for their lack of action.
Are you going to keep striking, and what other climate activism are you planning? I'm going to go to the protest on the 15 March. I want to start organising events and increase awareness within my college, as well as get more seriously involved with larger climate change organisations such Extinction Rebellion.
What change do you want in terms of climate action? The government needs to honestly and publicly acknowledge the situation we are facing and take immediate action against it by switching to renewable energy sources and enforcing sanctions on corporations which are damaging to the environment. It is essential that there is a shift from hyper-capitalism which puts profit before anything else; instead corporations need to be held accountable. There needs to be sustainable production on the basis of need, rather than thoughtless consumerism and planned obsolescence. The meat industry needs to be revolutionised as it has a horrifically damaging impact on the climate. Combatting climate change has to be seen as a unifying priority for all countries.
This article originally appeared on i-D UK.