From Bystander To Standing Up: Journey To Student Striker

Like many today, I find myself constantly juxtaposed between shock and inspiration at the world around me.

This teenage turmoil mightn't be a new adolescent problem, but it has found a new cause for the wider populous in the Earth's current state of climate crisis. Indeed, Earth is in a state of crisis. Shrinking glaciers, earlier bushfires, loss of sea ice, accelerated sea level rise and more intense heat waves are all deadly signifiers that drastic action must be taken. NASA's Third and Fourth National Climate Assessment Reports further stipulate that this change will continue through this century and beyond. The magnitude of this climate change, however, is largely dependent on the crucial actions taken today. Failure to act and enact systematic reform would see temperatures continue to rise, more droughts and heat waves, stronger and more intensified hurricanes, increased flooding…

I'm shocked by these climatic effects and doomsday prophecies. By the gradual destruction to ecosystems like Australia's iconic Great Barrier Reef I once swam in, the destruction and damage to homes and habitats, the growing groups of climate refugees and extinct species, the worsened droughts and prolonged water shortages… From this it's easy to feel defeated but daily one can't help but also be inspired by climate change being a top election issue with over 80% of Australian voters wanting more government action on the crisis (ABC Vote Compass), and by the rising youth with over 1.5 million people, in more than 2000 cities in over 100 countries globally, to participate in the past March 15 school strike for climate, as well as at the environmental movements growing momentum as a whole.

For my part, this combination of shock and admiration was one of the things that pushed me to join the Sydney Student Strike For Climate team in my city. I now see my actions as bigger than myself, even than my generation. We're striking for a future for everyone. A future wherein we do not have to fear and watch as the world becomes a smaller and smaller place, where more and more individuals do not lose their homes, where new inequalities and conflicts based on climate change and shifting resources do not arise… Further than that, one wherein future generations will be able to live safely in a world unmarred by climate destruction rather than be told of a world that once was, one we'll never get to show them. I joined the Student Strike for Climate team as a way to exercise my responsibility to take climate action. Though we, especially as young individuals, are often told such issues exceed our years, concerns, and understanding, our lack of complacency and actions today must be the catalyst for betterment. Change is coming but it's up to us whether that change will ultimately be positive or negative.

I never would've imagined assisting to organise a climate strike within my capacity. Whilst I was inspired by individuals around me, I was also somewhat restricted in my view of who could be an advocate for the environment. When considering striking at the Sydney Climate Strike held earlier in March, I pictured the striker - outspoken, vegan, with a databank of environmental statistics memorised. This description certainly did not paint a portrait of myself; introverted, biology flunking… but on the day of the strike, I shyly joined the masses with a group of my friends, a rolled up poster I'd finished the night before tucked under my arm.

At the strike, I saw that there was no set mold, indeed no mold at all, for who could be a striker and environmental activist. We were individuals from all walks of life, all ages, all nationalities united in our strides, demands and concerns for our one Earth. Signs and banners were our call to arms as we marched, the earth beating with the united strum of feet marking the climate countdown to the irreversible effects of climate change we were trying to prevent. The strike was a true display of how climate change is not a partisan issue. After all, no matter the city, region, age or political alignment, the science remains unchanged - that irreversible destruction awaits on the horizon should we fail to act. So a few months later, when the opportunity to join the Sydney Student Strike for Climate team arose, I nervously jumped at the chance to help supported in my pursuits by my parents and most of the adults in my life. As members of a climate strike team, we've been assisting in ensuring that the upcoming strike has the biggest turnout possible from reaching out to local schools and businesses in our area, media outreach to local newspapers, putting up posters… We use the means we have to enact the actions we wish to see, but this isn't something you strictly need to be part of a climate strike team to do. No matter how you do it, we can all do our part. Raise awareness of the issue, post or repost environmental articles, facts, news, put up posters, make changes to one's daily lifestyle, join an environmental team at school or in your city, be part of the global collective at an upcoming Global Climate Strike near you...

Every effort of climate action is an integral deed to enacting the change we must see. So no matter if you're just starting out or are a veteran striker, a student, worker or family, all are welcomed and encouraged to come to the upcoming Global Climate Strike near them. It might seem like just one day, one strike, but let it be a stepping stone to a better future, come and take that step with us.

Read this next: The Parents Are Rising Too: Mums And Dads In Climate Activism

By Gisele Weishan

Gisele Weishan is a high school student and member of the Student Strike For Climate, Eastern Suburbs team. Her previous climate article has appeared in Independent Australia, whilst her short stories have won the Randwick Young Writers Award, 2018, and will be showcased in Visible Ink's latest upcoming literary anthology.

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