Young people are right to care about the future. But marching while skipping school is only one, and not necessarily the most productive, step.
Fiona Carne, director of Alternatives in Education, lists ten things schools can do to address climate change in Schools Week. They are (my comments in brackets):
1 Reduce meat consumption
2 Stop trips abroad which involve flying. Use the train (and buses in areas where there are no trains). Replace trips with local social and environmental projects.
3 Ensure environmental education permeates the whole curriculum. (Make sure pupils learn to sew, knit and cook meals from scratch).
4 Recycle. Ban single-use plastic. Use biodegradable cleaning products. (Show pupils how to upcycle items from charity shops: a school bag made from a cast-off denim jacket, perhaps, or patchwork totes from remnants.)
5 Switch off lights and turn down heating.
6 Avoid cheap, imported school uniforms. Make second-hand uniform available. (Don’t insist on unnecessary items such as book bags with the school logo. Make it easier for parents to purchase or hand down uniform by stipulating a colour rather than requiring parents to buy from a named supplier).
7 Switch to an ethical banker.
8 Encourage walking or cycling to school.
9 Grow veg (and flowers). Plant trees.
10 Consider setting up Climate Change Action Committee comprising staff, pupils, parents and the local community
All but eight and ten are actions which combat pollution and waste irrespective of whether these contribute to climate change.
There is much in the above lists which children and young people can do individually. Marching raises awareness – and is great fun. But without being backed up with effective action which actually reduces pollution and over-consumption, it is nothing more than banner waving.