This coming Friday, as every Friday, I will be standing outside Leinster House with my placard as part of the global “FridaysForFuture” Climate Strike started by Greta Thunberg last year. My weekly climate strike started last December quite unexpectedly. For several weeks friends had been sending me links to Greta’s work – saying to me “someone should start that here in Ireland.” My first thought was that “yes, someone should – but they need to be young!” The whole idea of the climate strike is that it is children speaking up for their future. As someone heavily engaged in climate campaigning already I thought I’d leave it to someone else to organise this one.
Then, one Friday I had decided to take a day off. My plan was to go Christmas shopping and to meet a friend for a birthday lunch. As I was heading in on the train to Dublin I was glued to twitter (as usual). I stumbled upon the video of Greta addressing leaders at the climate negotiations in Poland. I watched the two minute video in which she gives the leaders of the world the most cutting dressing down for their inability to act decisively. Her words are both chilling and inspiring.
As I listened, I realised that I had to do something. Greta was calling on us all – young and old – to break with our normality and to stand up for the future. As a mother of two little boys, I suddenly realised that I had to be their voice – at least for now. They are too young to lead a climate strike. They may not be voiceless, but as young children they are not ready to lead. They do not fully comprehend the enormity of the challenges the world is facing – nor should they be burdened with this so young. They needed me, their parent, to be their voice. Christmas shopping could wait.
As if drawn by a magnet, I found myself texting a few friends and making my way to a stationery shop. I bought the biggest cardboard sheet I could find and some markers. From their I went to a coffee shop and wrote my sign. At 1pm I took up position outside parliament – alone. I took a selfie and posted it on twitter. It was the strangest, but most liberating feeling. I simultaneously knew I was exactly where I needed to be – but also wondered if I had lost my marbles. Business as usual needs to stop – and the best way to do that, at least for me, is to create a new normal. Fridays now are about the future and about standing in solidarity with people all over the world calling for urgent and radical climate action.
Within ten minutes my friend and fellow climate activist Jim Scheer from SEAI arrived. Then, within the hour several more came. Some were seasoned climate campaigners who were moved by Greta, saw my tweet and popped down for a bit. Others happened to pass by and stand with us for a while. Our slightly forlorn picture was shared widely on social media – reaching almost 250,000 people. We knew this would grow.
That was a month ago. Since then, the group has continued to grow week by week. More strikes have started across Ireland. The following week there were twenty of us – including my own two children. We celebrated Christmas by changing the words to well-known Christmas carols and adapting them to our climate message. Last Friday there were thirty five of us, including students from three local schools with their teachers. We all had home-made posters and we chanted climate chants to attract attention. Again, our little protest was shared hundreds of times on social media and our video viewed over 10,000 times last week. There are now plans for a national day of action in primary schools on the 15th February promoted by Flossie Donnelly and a national day of schools climate action on the 15th March.
What has struck me most over the past few weeks is how much I feel connected to others in publicly voicing our climate concern. It is an act of shared hope – and defiance. My climate depression has lifted. Taking that small yet decisive step to get onto the street, to rebel, has generated a deep bond that connects us to each other and our planet. Many people found our small, yet growing group on Twitter or Facebook and just chose to turn up. Others had heard about us through friends and wanted to show support. Whilst we arrived on Kildare Street as complete strangers, from the first greeting we have become friends connected by deep bond. Each week we leave as fellow travellers to spread the word. We share our concerns, our hopes and above all, our wish to be heard. The destination of this adventure is unknown but we want to travel together to build a bright future for us all. Now is the time to stand up and be counted.
You can find us each week outside Leinster House on Kildare Street, Dublin at 1pm. If you can’t be there, be a climate striker wherever you are. All you need is a sign, a phone to post your picture online and above all – a bit of courage. Rest assured, you won’t be alone for long. You can also find the group on Facebook – Climate Strike Ireland.