Climate strikes: actions and words

Edinburgh’s treatment of school climate strikers shows actions out of step with words, argues Steve Burgess.

This week Edinburgh has been rolling out the red carpet for the filming of Vin Diesel’s latest Hollywood car-chase blockbuster ‘Fast and Furious’. Main streets in the City centre are closed, bringing traffic jams, bus route diversions and even shut-off pavements, with police taken off other duties to mind crowd-control barriers.

At the same time, on Tuesday, with the Royal Mile completely sealed for filming right outside the City Chambers, Edinburgh Council’s civic licensing committee took the extraordinary decision to deny a request by young people from the Scottish Youth Climate Strike movement to lead the ‘Global Climate Strike’ march down Princes Street for an hour or so next Friday.

Worse still, councillors not only refused to allow the Princes Street route, they pro-actively applied a specific condition against it – claiming there would be too much disruption to traffic and the tram!

Friday 20 September is the day of the ‘Global Climate Strike’, expected to involve millions of people worldwide and coming just days before a crucial Climate Emergency summit at the United Nations in New York. This is the summit which Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg, founder of the Youth Strike movement, has just sailed 3,000 miles across the Atlantic in a small yacht to get to.

On this occasion young people are calling on adults to support them and join the Strike – but, sadly it’s clear some adults just don’t get it yet. The United Nations International Panel on Climate Change has clearly stated we are in a global emergency, the consequences of which are too severe to comprehend. There are only 10 years to act. As the First Minister has recognised, we are fortunate to have a youth movement that is driving political action. But actions speak louder than words.

This week’s decision to ban a march along Princes Street comes hot on the heels of the Education committee decision to only allow young people one half-day a year to join climate protests. On that occasion, it was claimed that allowing more leeway to take part on climate action would disrupt schooling. Again, this is a failure by adults to put disruption into perspective. As one young person put it at the committee ‘what’s the point of attending school every day if there isn’t a future for us’.

The Climate Emergency is a global catastrophe in the making that requires everyone to play their part if we are to avoid the worst consequences. So when young people, who are showing real leadership, ask us to support them and join them in taking action, let’s stop putting barriers in their way and instead roll out the red carpet for something that really matters.

This blog was first published in the Herald.