At the chalkface: Strike!

Written by: Ian Whitwham | Published:

The Cuban Missile Crisis. October 1962. We protested and refused to kick off in case the world was blown to smithereens. It wasn’t. Our protest might have been decisive.

Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish schoolgirl, really started something with her solo protest outside the last Davos meeting. Global school strikes against global warming. Earlier this month was the first YouthStrike4Climate event in the UK. Thousands showed up.

I’m with them all the way.

Government inertia is criminal. The situation is about as grave as it gets. The usual malign chorus has fulminated – elderly, complacent, paternalistic, condescending, monumentally selfish Blimps.

“The children are being naïve, exploited. Why can’t they demonstrate outside school hours? They’ll be missing essential lessons and consequently might fail their GCSEs.”

And not have the chance to become a drudging serf in our nightmare global marketplace. What about their future? They may not have one.

“They’re callow idealists. Middle class children virtue-signally. They just want a day off school. It’s just a lark, truanting. They need a damn good kettling.”

Blimp. Blimp.

“Silly girls with silly placards. Sentimental nonsense.”

Blimp. Blimp.

Slaughtered whales in Japan, crazed whales in the Thames, bi-polar bears, dazed seals, traumatised turtles, dolphins garrotted by plastic, arctic meltdowns, killer pollution and the death of the planet. Sentimental?

We’ve always had youth protests. The Bomb was my first. I had a rugby match on the afternoon of the Cuban Missile Crisis. October 1962. We protested and refused to kick off in case the world was blown to smithereens. It wasn’t. Our protest might have been decisive.

I joined CND for more futile gestures. We had the same drear chorus. Then there were the Vietnam and the miners’ strike. Some of my pupils joined us. Dave Mania was persuaded to forego his studies for a rumble with the old bill. Then we had the Iraq war demo and nurses’ and teachers’ strikes and Occupy – more futile gestures, but so what?

The latest UN report warns that there are 12 years to avoid the worst impacts of global warming. We may already have reached the tipping point. Four degrees more is all it will take – for droughts, heat waves, warming oceans, floods, drowned cities, crop failures, mass migration and complete chaos. This dwarfs everything, this exhausts hyperbole. More than 200 scientists wrote to the Guardian in support of this strike. It’s probably just another futile gesture.

That’s not the point. What else are our children meant to do? This is an intergenerational war. With old, craven fools. With sclerotics in the grip of Thanatos. With Rapture freaks? My generation trashed their planet. There is no planet B.

  • Ian Whitwham is a former inner city London teacher.


Comments
Name
 
Email
 
Comments
 

Please view our Terms and Conditions before leaving a comment.

Change the CAPTCHA codeSpeak the CAPTCHA code
 
Sign up SecEd Bulletin