Today I marched in one of the many school strike for climate protests that took place throughout the country.
There were literally thousands of people in the march. It started around the northern sports fields, then passed by the main university grounds where many people, including me, were waiting to join them. A large part of the march was schoolchildren in their uniforms (it is the school strike for climate, after all) but also joining were other groups, including musicians, indigenous peoples from various countries including New Zealand, the socialists carrying a "unite" banner. There were surely more that I never got to see from just how huge the crowd was.
As they marched, many people were holding up cardboard signs with their messages, and everyone yelled chants for the world to hear. Retail workers stood outside the shops they were working in to cheer us on as we passed.
Once we reached the Octagon, the organisers had a podium and several speeches arranged. All of the speeches were written and spoken by children or teenagers.
One of these was a heartfelt message from a girl born in Tuvalu. Tuvalu is the fourth smallest country in the world, and has a population of around 12,000 people. For miles, you can walk down the island, and see the shore on either side of you. Tuvalu is lush with life, trees, coral, homes, families. By the year 2050, it will be entirely underwater.
She cried as she spoke.
After all of the formal written speeches, everyone did some more chanting, and that was the end of the organised activities. The event organisers offered the microphone to anyone else who wanted to say an unplanned speech. I didn't have anything prepared, but from everything that I had already seen, I was inspired. I stood in front of the microphone, and I spoke of how climate change is not the fault of the individual person.
There's something in the range of 4 million cars in New Zealand. (<= 5 million people, <= 0.8 cars per person). If all of these cars, every single one, was replaced with an electric car, right this instant, to help the environment? It would be cancelled out after the creation of 4 new cruise liners. Not 400 cruise liners. Not 40 cruise liners. Just. Four.
It is not an individual problem. You, going green, will not make a significant dent in the state of the world's pollution. Everything is caused by the corporations. The corporations want profit and only profit. Even when it dirties the rivers. Even when it heats the planet. Even when it destroys our homes. Even when it kills us. Individual action will not work. Asking the corporations nicely will not work. To stop them, we need regulations, and we need them now.
I raised my fist and heard the crowd cheer.
I stepped away from the microphone, legs literally shaking, all of my energy spent in that moment.
I left with hope. Hope that collective action will cause change. Hope that collective action will save our lives.