“It’s a day off school but definitely not a day off education.”

Those are the words of Sophie Handford, the young Kāpiti woman spearheading New Zealand’s part in the global strike to support action over global warming this Friday 15 March.

As the national co-ordinator, the ex-Kāpiti College student is organising students from around New Zealand to protest for our planet on the global day of action.

Sophie became involved after posting on a Facebook group asking if anyone was keen to get involved, and it snowballed from there.

With networks from being part of the Kāpiti College Eco-Action Group, head girl at the college last year and a Youth MP, the idea quickly grew and social media pages were created to promote the strike.

United by their concern for the planet, students are striking to “tell politicians to take their futures seriously and treat climate change for what it is — a crisis”.

“So far 25-30 strikes are already being planned in areas around New Zealand and more are getting involved every day.

“It’s an issue that we are passionate about.

“We are willing to stand up for our future in this way and try to be noticed.

“The conversation has definitely picked up so we’re on our way.”

The global movement was sparked by 15-year-old Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg, who decided last August to stay away from school until the Swedish general election on September 9.

She protested by sitting outside their Parliament every day during school hours with a sign, “Skolstrejk för klimatet (School strike for climate)”.

“We want to stand in solidarity with the rest of the world.”

The group’s “demands” include an immediate ban on exploration and extraction of fossil fuels, regulating emissions from agriculture, investing in renewable energy alternatives and supporting the Government’s Zero Carbon Act.

Along with the strike an open letter gaining signatures on Action Station is being presented as a follow up to the strike.

“That’s something that we will be delivering after the strike as follow-up action, a way to strengthen the strike.”

In response to parents and those who might be hesitant about their child missing school Sophie said, “Think about the burden of inaction and how much you can take from this one day”.

“Although it will be a day off school, it’s definitely not a day off education.

“We are encouraging people to get out there and participate in this democracy including encouraging all parents, adults and teachers to stand in solidarity with us.”

In the wake of media attention and conversation around students striking Kāpiti College principal Tony Kane issued a letter to parents saying the decision is up to parents on whether to let their young person go, and if they go without that permission the school will need to make them truant.

“Having said that, the issue of climate change is hugely significant for many of our students,” he said.

“They have often studied it and debated the issues and their desire to make their voices heard is completely understandable.

“We want them to think critically, to care about their community and their future and to be activists for social and environmental justice.

“They study their rights and obligations in a democratic society and this includes peaceful protest.”

With many of the striking students under 18, Sophie said, “We’re all young and lots of us are under 18 so we can’t vote.

“This is a way for us to have our voices heard.”

The Kāpiti strike is outside the council buildings, Rimu Rd, Paraparaumu, from 9am to 3pm TODAY filled with sign-making, speeches, performances and more.

Source: NZ Herald


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