Thousands of New Zealand students are set to go ‘on strike’ this Friday to protest government inaction on climate change.
The ‘strike’ – held as part of a global ‘day of action’ which is expected to involve thousands around the world – will see students skip classes to attend protests. The national coordinator for School Strike 4 Climate Change NZ, Sophie Handford, says rallies are being organised in more than 20 towns across New Zealand. Handford says she is hopeful more than 5000 students will attend the rallies. The group’s website is unclear on what its demands are, but NZ Herald has reported their demands as including an immediate ban on exploration and extraction of fossil fuels. NZ Herald also reported the group wished to see the government take action to ratify the Zero Carbon Act (a bill created by the group Generation Zero, which would commit New Zealand to a legally binding agreement to be ‘zero carbon’ by 2050), and to regulate carbon emissions in the agricultural sector.
Ministry of Education deputy secretary Ellen MacGregor-Reid has endorsed the strikes, saying “the NZ curriculum … encourages students to participate and take action [on environmental issues] as critical, informed and responsible citizens”. However, support is not unanimous. NZ Secondary Principals Council chairman James Morris says he does not believe it is appropriate for school principals to condone the rallies. “Most principals … support students expressing support for climate change”, he says, but this does not make it okay for students to “[take] time away from their classes to do so”. “It would be a real sign of the students’ commitment to the cause if they chose to give up after school jobs or weekend activities to ‘strike’ rather than school time”, he says.
At time of writing, the Auckland School Strike 4 Climate page had more than 500 people registered as ‘going’, with another 1,600 listed as ‘interested’. The page description begins: “we demand that the New Zealand Government do more now to hold warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius”. According to the page, the protest will be held March 15th at midday in Aotea Square, and will feature “speakers, performers and music”.