Students to walk out of class again over climate change

The climate strike will be on April 12 at 10:15 am on St Salvator’s Quad.

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Photo: Leonor Capelier

The second in a series of “St Andrews Climate Strikes” will take place on Friday 12 April at 10:15am in St Salvator’s Quad.

The strike follows in the wake of the #Strike4Climate movement be-gun by Swedish 16-year old Greta Thunberg, who the New York Times described as, “Wry. Blunt. Sometimes sarcastic. The opposite of sweet,” in an 18 February article.

Organised by the newly-formed Climate Action St Andrews, Léa Weimann, a member of the organisation, said, “We just want to collaborate and work together democratically to reach as many people as possible,” in an email to The Saint.

Ms Weimann studies sustainable development and international relations and describes herself as an “eco-activist.”

In the email, Ms Weimann said that the purpose of the protests was to bring awareness to the fact we are in a “climate emergency.”

“The biggest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it. The ultimate goal is to push governments and officials to declare a climate emergency and take serious measures of action to combat climate change,” Ms Weimann said.

In an interview with The Saint, Ms Weimann said that Climate Action St Andrews based its protests on the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The Panel was established by the United Nations in 1988. “The objective of the IPCC is to provide governments at all levels with scientific information that they can use to develop climate policies,” the webpage for the IPCC states.

The Panel does not conduct its own research, but instead relies on people around the world to submit papers. The papers are assessed and summarised by IPCC volunteer scientists each year. The summary includes the causes of climate change, the risks it currently poses, risks in the future and possible ways to reduce and mitigate the risks of climate change. The Panel then discusses the scientific consensus and areas of improvement within the summary. IPCC jointly won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore, “For their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made cli-mate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change,” the webpage for the Nobel Peace Prize states.

“The climate strikes mainly take place in bigger cities since that is where larger crowds gather, and the attention and impact tend to be bigger as well,” said Ms Weimann, adding, “At the beginning of 2019 different environment societies around St Andrews started to dis-cuss hosting a climate demonstration in St Andrews.”

A group of students attended an Edinburgh climate strike, where they were galvanised to hold a strike in St Andrews, said Ms Weimann. Soon, a Facebook Messenger group was created with over 90 students. They planned to hold a strike on Friday 15 March.

“Within a week we created the group ‘Climate Action St Andrews,’ contacted the police and council, spread the messages to local schools and other groups, created a Facebook event and posters, posted across social media platforms and contacted local newspapers,” Ms Weimann said.

She admitted that the short notice planning led her to doubt how successful the protest would be, “…but it turned out really well,” adding that, “…the collaboration with local schools and children really added to the success.”

On a preview for the 15 March strike on The Saint webpage, one user left a comment which included the statements, “children should not be used for political purposes,” that children can be “brainwashed” and “persuaded into an opposing view.”

In response, Ms Weimann said, “Due to our education, both at school[and] at university, the youth is very well exposed to the facts of climate change and can recognise the severity of it and therefore see the urgent need for action.”

Organising the 12 April strike came with one difficulty. There was the question of getting permission fora road closure, Ms Weimann said, since officials do not want to cause traffic delays.

“As our name says our aim is to push for climate action both on a local and international scale. St Andrews might just be a small town but since we are such an old university town with an impressive history and an international community, I think we can really make a statement, show how much we care and make a difference,” Ms Weimann said.

Ms Weimann affirmed that the pro-tests are not the only action Climate Action St Andrews has taken, stating  the organisation has contacted departments and staff at the University, including University Principle Sally Mapstone, calling on them to sup-port the “actions, demonstrations and strikes” of the organisation, adding, “This is not just a movement for ‘environmentalists.’”

Ms Weimann described how she envisions “serious action” being taken to combat climate change, specifically to “establish civic societies and citizen assemblies that make climate change decisions. Furthermore, we also need major institutions such as universities to declare a Climate Emergency and push for climate action in local governments,” she added.

“Our university motto says, ‘ever to excel’ but with climate change progressing and intensifying that statement is severely challenged,” Ms Weimann said.

“I think we as students and ambassadors of the motto should make sure that we stand for climate action if we really want to ‘ever excel’,” Ms Weimann said, stressing that this is not the last climate strike Climate Action St Andrews will organise and encouraging people to become involved with the organisation.

The climate strike will be on April 12 at 10:15 am on St Salvator’s Quad.

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