9 Mar 2019

Academics, teachers back students' climate strike

8:50 pm on 9 March 2019

More than a thousand academics, teachers and researchers have made the rare decision to throw their support behind the planned primary and secondary school students' climate strikes next week.

Thousands of young people gather in Parliament Square in central London to protest against the government’s lack of action on climate change.

Thousands gathered in central London to protest against the government's lack of action on climate change. Photo: WIktor Szymanowicz/NurPhoto/ AFP

The educators have signed a letter of support for the 15 March strikes, saying taking action is crucial for the well-being and survival of current and future generations.

"We would like to thank striking students for their leadership, and commitment to building a different world based on climate justice," the letter read.

"Creating a future that does not rely on fossil fuels is going to take bravery and imagination and we are heartened by what we are seeing from young people.

"As the great leader and educator Sir Āpirana Ngata challenged us to see the leadership of rangatahi/youth, 'Ka pū te rūhā, ka hao te rangatahi' the old net is set aside, the new net goes fishing.

"The striking students are learning practical lessons about an issue that will confront them throughout their lifetimes, as citizens, as future scientists, and as members of the global community."

Victoria University lecturer Amanda Thomas said New Zealand needed to act now because the science was clear on climate change.

"My motivation is that I know the facts about climate change, I know how urgent action is, so I really respect their leadership and want to show my support for that," Dr Thomas said.

"It's about showing support for their leadership and their demand for a future that's about climate justice, not about disastrous climate change."

Critics of the planned strike action have said students should remain in school, learn, and not break the law.

But Dr Thomas said the strike was a great opportunity for practical lessons.

"I think this is a fabulous educational opportunity," she said.

"We often talk about the needs of civics education in this country, and so this is a chance for students to practise that.

"We know the way to build good democratic citizens is for them to practise being citizens, so this is a way for students to learn how to be good responsible citizens in this country."

The letter, which is still open to signatories until Tuesday, will be sent to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Minister for Climate Change James Shaw, Minister for Education Chris Hipkins, Minister for Children Tracey Martin, and the Secondary Principals' Association.

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