Eleanor Buffery is a year 8 school student in Gloucester who organised the local youth strike for climate. She spoke to Maisie Sanders.
I found out about the strikes in the local and national news and I thought it was really important. I read more about it, talked to my friends and we decided to take action! I got in touch with Youth Strike for Climate nationally, set up a social media page and got started organising our own strike.
In my school we spent lots of time making posters and adverts. We spoke to the Head of Year, who helped spread the word by sending out an email to students letting them know she supported the strike, and the Head Teacher gave us a sign-out sheet on the day. That made it much easier for us to walk out. We also went round different form groups at tutor time to talk to others about the strike and why they should join us.
One other school tried to walk out, but teachers wouldn’t let them out. They’d just done an assembly about the suffragettes, but locked the gates when students themselves tried to protest! On the day of the strike we all walked out together and waited in town for others to arrive. My friend Amy gave her speech and I read out the international open letter from Greta Thunberg [Swedish school student who started the Youth Strike for Climate movement] to people in power and adults. Others school strikers spoke too about why others should get involved. We did some chalking and wrote slogans on the pavement and then we marched through town.
At its height there were 130 of us. Most were from my school but there were at least three other schools too, plus primary school kids with their parents. We walked into the local council building to speak to them about our demands. We want to know why the waste incinerator was built, talk about creating low emission zones, improving recycling centres, improving awareness and education in schools…
Our placards and chants were things like “Theresa May hear us say, fossil fuels aren’t here to stay” and “the oceans are rising and so are we.” The four key demands of the international strikes are for the government to declare a climate emergency, for education in schools on climate change, for them to communicate the severity to the public and incorporate young people in politics— we need votes at 16!
I think votes at 16 are so important. It’s not just about the climate- young people need to be engaged in loads more issues. Brexit will affect us more! The education system too when the curriculum and exams are changed, these are youth issues. Children and young people need to be involved more. And there needs to be better education on this so we know how to have a say. Going forward we want the government to at least recognise what we’re doing. They need to respond to our demands.
The Green New Deal will be a big project and could mean new changes. If you’re an adult, you should speak up and use your platform — don’t just say “the youth strikes are great”! Adults need to know that we aren’t going to be scared by threats of detentions. The only thing you can do to stop us is help us instead of working against us! We’re going to keep striking every month and work with school strikers in other local cities too next time. I think my generation are going to keep protesting.
The school strikes have been so big because my generation have really recognised our power. There’s been a big rise in natural disasters and we know the impact of climate change. We know more about debates and issues because of the internet and social media. We are underrepresented in politics, but I think we are educated as a generation. We’re stressed.
Being young is really stressful. But seeing people do things inspires you to do things yourself and make changes. If you’re thinking, “why isn’t anyone doing anything about this” — you should be the person who does! The advice I’d give to school students in other cities is to make posters! Don’t just use social media we put up posters in cafes, on noticeboards, in the library. Speak to your teachers. Get in touch with national organisers like Youth Strike for Climate. They will help you be seen by more people and make links. We had media training online and joined bigger national meetings.
Organising a strike is lots of work on top of homework. Lots of teachers aren’t supportive. But it’s important to remember how important it is. It’s not a choice — we have to do this because it’s so serious.