Growing up, I fancied myself a bit of a rebel, standing up for what I believed was right and speaking up against injustice, even if it got me in trouble with teachers at school. I was young and idealistic and passionate about doing my bit to save the world.
I vaguely recall joining a school strike when I was in my early teens and in high school I became an active member of Amnesty International, writing letters and fundraising on behalf of prisoners of conscience.
Nowadays I’d rather avoid standing on the barricades, preferring instead to change the world from the comfort of my home. The idealism of my youth is long gone, but I have full respect for those who still have the energy to fight for a better, greener, fairer world.
I am a huge admirer of the 16-year old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg whose one-woman school strike unleashed a worldwide movement of teenage climate activists calling on their governments to take urgent action to halt climate change.
Although not in the same league as Greta, my 8-year old daughter is also something of an eco-warrior, and when she learned about the global youth strike for climate action taking place tomorrow, March 15th, she immediately told me,
“I want to strike too.”
How sweet I thought, but of course it wasn’t going to happen. She is much too young to bunk off school to join the protest in central London. But she insisted.
“I want to strike, mummy, because if the people who run the world don’t do anything now, our planet could be destroyed by the time I’m 58.”
I thought she might forget about the whole thing, but a few days later she came to me and said,
“Have you asked the headmistress yet if I can strike?”
I tried to explain that striking isn’t exactly something you ask permission for, and in any case, the kids going on strike were all teenagers, not primary school kids.
“Ask anyway,” she said with a determination that impressed me enough that I relented. I sent off a very carefully worded email to the headmistress explaining Felicity’s desire to do her bit for the planet, fully expecting to be told that the school couldn’t possibly condone my child striking.
Here’s what the headmistress wrote in reply:
How can I stand in the way of passion?
I’m pleased that F is so committed to saving our planet. I give my permission for her to attend the demo. Wave a placard for me!
My daughter was elated and has been telling everyone she meets that she’s going on strike tomorrow. This evening we’re putting the finishing touches to the placard she’s making for tomorrow’s protest.
My husband is perhaps not as enthusiastic about tomorrow’s event as he’s been ordered to come along as a chaperone (and placard carrier) to our daughter’s first ever political manifestation. I’ll be there too, and I have to admit I’m looking forward to it.
After all, frontline activism is much more rewarding than the armchair version.