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Editor's comment: I'm so proud of Hackney's climate kids

PUBLISHED: 15:00 20 February 2019

Pupils from Stoke Newington joined the national school strike against climate change. Picture: SAM SILVERLOCK

Pupils from Stoke Newington joined the national school strike against climate change. Picture: SAM SILVERLOCK

Rebecca Sewell

The Hackney children who walked out of school on Friday to demand tougher action on climate change did us all proud.

Their requests that the voting age be lowered and that education on global warming be added to the curriculum are spot on. That children are walking out of school to demonstrate against the mistreatment of the world in which they will work and raise families suggests they are very much ready for democratic responsibility – probably more so than many adult voters.

I was disappointed to see the National Association of Headteachers (and the reliably disappointing Theresa May) criticising those who joined the protest as “wasting lesson time”. These students did not skip lessons to drink White Ace in the park – they took part in a demonstration on the biggest issue facing this and any generation. It is the world’s leaders, past and present, who should be scolded for wasting time.

If there is a danger in children missing school to attend a climate change protest, it is not in the lost day of education but in the risk of them learning too soon what it feels like to have their views brushed aside by politicians, because it is their passion that will be needed to solve this crisis.

Despite having (loosely) protested against the first Gulf War while still in a pushchair, I didn’t join the millions who marched on Parliament 12 years later on the eve of the second – too obsessed with rules, maybe, or arrogant, or apathetic (none of these things I am proud of).

But what is now remembered about the record-breaking Iraq protests in 2003? That they failed – that the voice of the people (not to mention the experts) was ignored.

I hope 60,000 children don’t now end up feeling the same way. The loss of that many progressive voices in tomorrow’s elections and front benches would be a tragedy.

But then again, so is the current government’s failure to treat climate change as an emergency.

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