What happened to activism?

It’s been a while since we’ve seen a land occupation; they used to be every other weekend.

As a rookie reporter I learned a valuable journalism lesson: everyone has a voice, listen, and be careful who you ignore.

Amongst a crowd gathered outside an empty school taken over by protesters was a farmer. His name was Clarry. He was trying to tell people that protesters had put tyres around the grounds and were going to set them alight and burn the school down. He was laughed at.

That night, the protesters burned the school down. No one was ever charged and a reporter not long out of broadcasting school, Lisa Owen, got her first big scoop.

A photographer and I had driven the two hours home that afternoon.

Owen, who is currently Radio NZ’s Checkpoint host, stayed the night with a kind couple living at the old caretaker’s house next to the school and was there when the school burned down.

That was extreme activism that ended badly. The protesters took the view that if they couldn’t lay claim to the land and building, then no one should.

There is also activism that can end positively, and hopefully we have seen some of that in Hawke’s Bay this week.

About 100 school kids protested in Napier yesterday.

They were amongst thousands of pupils in New Zealand on strike, calling for urgent action on climate change.

Ironically, the protests are taking place while a Labour/NZ First Government is in power that is arguably more empathetic to the issue than their conservative predecessors.

Regardless, our kids want something done about the negative impact of climate change.
“Earth isn’t flat, climate change is real, I’m 9 and I get this” one sign read.

‘Why should we go to school when you won’t listen to the educated? another sign read.

Ask a few locals at Haumoana, where the sea occasionally splashes directly onto waterfront homes, and they’ll tell you they’d like something done about climate change as well.

The climate change strikes have happened around the world, amongst young people galvanised through social media, incredulous with the tone of someone who can quite easily see the emperor has no clothes – why can’t everyone else see it?

Why indeed? They are smart enough to realise that it’s no use preaching to the converted parish on a well meaning Facebook page – they need to be in the face of adults who have the power to make decisions. They need to be out there on the streets.

Which brings us to another point – will the protest achieve anything?

Here’s where the kids are smart – they don’t have the hands on power to make change but they can shine a light on the issue and put pressure on us adults.

The ball is now firmly in our court – will we let the kids down and ignore them?

Source NZ Herald


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