New Economy Journal

School Strikes for Climate: Hear from the Organisers

The Young Person’s Issue

Volume 1, Issue 5

August 2019

By Sampson McCrackan and Helia Mansouri

Piece length: 1,833 words

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How is this New Economy? A sustainable economy is possible. We have the means and the technology, and are only missing the political will. School students are making an impressive stand to change this, and have a general strike planned for September. NEJ contacted School Strike for Climate organisers Sampson McCrackan and Helia Mansouri to get an idea of how students are getting involved in climate activism, what they’re learning, and what their take is on Australia’s federal politics.  

Contents

[1] Introducing Sampson and Helia
[2] Sampson McCrackan - What I’ve learnt from being involved with SS4C
[3] Helia Mansouri - What I’ve learnt from being involved with SS4C
[4] Sampson McCrackan - My reaction to the federal election
[5] Helia Mansouri - My reaction to the federal election

[1] Introducing Sampson and Helia

Sampson McCrackan:

My name is Sampson Mccrackan, I'm fifteen years old and I attend Aranmore Catholic College in Western Australia. I first got involved with the school strike during the first few weeks of the year. I’ve always been concerned about Climate Change as far back as I knew what it meant, and the more I learn the more worried about the future I am. This is my first foray into any kind of political activism, for the longest time I didn’t know what I could do about Climate Change. Being an organiser of these School Strikes gives me purpose.

Helia Mansouri:

My name is Helia Mansouri, I'm 15, I live in NSW and I go to Killara High. I got involved in the SS4C movement from being involved with the AYCC (Australian Youth Climate Coalition). I first got involved with the AYCC when the teacher that was running the eco club at my school found a link to an AYCC workshop that was taking place. I sent in my form and a few weeks later I was part of the team! The team being the "repower our schools" movement, which was a movement where a group of kids in NSW would get together and learn through really friendly AYCC volunteers how to make small and good changes in our community. We would all meet once a month, for six months. This all lead up to us being prepared enough to talk to our local members of parliament, to tell them how devastating the climate crisis is, and how one good step towards a more sustainable future would be to have 100% renewable energy for all schools. Hence "repower our schools". From the friends I made through there, I heard about other events that the newly formed School Strike for Climate Action were holding, and joined in!

[2] Sampson McCrackan - What I’ve learnt from being involved with SS4C 

I first joined the School Strike for Climate group in mid-January earlier this year. I joined after many years of frustration at the lack of Climate Action from the politicians who are supposed to work for the will of the people, and not to be bought out by billionaires and large mining companies who have vested interests in maintaining the status quo. But we all know that our Planet, which we all share, can’t sustain this level of greed and lack of foresight for much longer. We all know of the damaging effects of Climate Change, so I won’t go into detail about the degradation of the planet.

Being one of the main organisers of the School Strike for Climate group in Perth, I’ve learnt a great deal about political activism. I’ve learnt about the time that is takes to organise rallies and much of the behind the scenes workings of activists; the time it takes organising events such as workshops, and communicating with other environmental groups and worker’s unions to organise the upcoming general strike of September 20th.

None of these communication and organisational skills I’ve learnt at school. Through activism, I have improved my teamwork skills. Having to speak to the media and at protests has improved my speaking and communication abilities as well. The education system does not teach students much about teamwork and communication: especially in high school, a great deal of time is spent just studying for exams instead of learning these vital skills which are important to anyone’s future in the workplace. Many of the problems School Strike for Climate has faced have forced us to think thoroughly about how we act in front of the media, what might excite a crowd etc, making us think for ourselves. As this is a student led movement we have the final say in everything in a way our education system doesn’t allow.

My experience with the media related to School Strike and Climate Change coverage has been less than positive.

I’ve been shocked how lies, for example that us young people are ‘brainwashed puppets’, have been spread by the media. When they’re not making up obvious lies, they often tend to treat Climate Change as a side issue and ignore the growing School Strike movement. As it has become clear to me that their main intention with this is to reduce Climate awareness and maintain the status quo, as many people in the upper management of media companies such as Newscorp don’t believe Climate Change is real, or else have just been bought out by large mining companies. There are many journalists that I’ve seen to be supportive of us, but I’ve also seen the higher ups twist their articles to appear less so. So, my experience with the media has been less than positive.

Social Media has played a large role in advertising the school strikes and smaller events, and for getting more people involved in the School Strike group. We wouldn’t be here without heavy usage of social media, which is the main source of information for many young people. Mainstream media does no favours for us either, in terms of telling people about School Strike for Climate.

Over this year, School Strike for Climate has seen rapid growth not just in Australia but internationally. I can see rapid growth continuing as our organisation builds up the proper infrastructure and as we make our first attempts at a general strike on September 20th. This has the potential to significantly grow our movement, especially if our government and others around the world continue to do nothing about the Climate Catastrophe.

Ecological movements from all around the world I expect will continue to gain steam until we get climate action. But nothing is guaranteed. My fear is that in a few years our group will begin to lose steam and enthusiasm due to nothing fundamentally changing, or we’ll splinter from the inside like the occupy movement did earlier this decade. I don’t know for certain where things are headed, all I know is that the ecological movements springing up today have the potential to rival the civil rights, anti-war and suffragette movements of the past.

[3] Helia Mansouri - What I’ve learnt from being involved with SS4C

Being involved in the SS4C has taught me a couple things. The lessons I’ve learned had the help of a couple YouTube videos, and hours upon hours of me just lying in bed, thinking.

For one, I learnt that to make real change, you need to talk to/convince the decision maker about whatever you want changed. Activism itself is wonderful as it brings more attention to whatever topic needs to be discussed. This can help the issue get to a point where so many people are aware of the problem and actively talking about it, that the decision makers that are in charge of whatever it may be, will make the necessary change.

Another thing I learned is how hard it is to get people to change. Whether it be a law change, a system implemented, and sometimes opinions. One reason why it is so hard to get the big decision makers in parliament to do something about climate change, can be because they don’t see it as a big enough issue. A government is supposed to represent the people and what the people in their country find as the priority (note supposed to), or they’re another case of “I do what I want for the benefit of myself and myself only”.

I have learnt that change takes time. If you ever get impatient and/or upset from the lack of change being made, do more yourself, go doorknocking, make more switches to more actually environmentally friendly switches, have more conversations. There’s still a bit of time left, don’t lose hope.

[4] Sampson McCrackan - My reaction to the federal election

My reaction to the federal election was a mix of anger and disappointment, I was disappointed that people decided to re-elect a government that has abolished the Carbon tax and reduced environmental regulations. They have now also twice been rewarded for changing Prime ministers.

In the aftermath of the election, Labor has decided to move further to the right, abandoning what half-assed, progressive policies they had, essentially becoming a coalition lite. I have no idea why they think becoming more like the party that they lost to is a good strategy. Why would people vote for the Coalition lite when they could just vote for Coalition proper?

My two cents are that they weren’t different enough from the Coalition to begin with, there was no excitement around Bill Shorten, no energy at all. It takes a simple look at the United Kingdom where in the 2017 General Election Jeremy Corbyn lurched the party significantly to the left and  led them to their best result in decades: it was the first time they had gained seats since 1997.

The election result earlier this year has also made it clear to me the influence Newscorp has over our democracy, constantly pushing the Coalition’s narrative, leading people to vote against their best interests. I think the Greens after this election result also need to have a look at their strategies, as they’ve been stuck at around 10% for the last decade. I believe they should be adopting the populist rhetoric of people such as Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn. I was confident Labor would win this election, so their defeat and current pandering to the Coalition (e.g. supporting their tax plan) makes me worried that the Coalition will win the next election as well.

[5] Helia Mansouri - My reaction to the federal election

Change is also hard to achieve because large scale projects will naturally take a while. Which I’d say is the reason why I was so disappointed with the most recent election results. The Liberal Party only won because (1) they used scare tactics to move people away from other parties (most prominently the Labour Party); (2) they gave the people (most of) what they wanted, which is predominantly NOT related to the climate; and (3) the later the changes to better the levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, the less progress we will actually have. If the Liberal party is so concerned with conserving Australia’s natural beauties and building more sustainable energy sources, as they say on their website, then they should have started by now. They have been in office since 2009.

To this day, the most depended on source for what party to vote for in Australia is Television, never being overtaken in its time. I remember before the election the news was on a lot, and the news anchors were talking about what the biggest concerns for the turning tide are for the election. They were healthcare, tax, immigration, education, industrial relations, and climate change. But the biggest concerns that ended up winning the most seats were healthcare and tax, by yours truly, the liberal party.

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