STUDENTS mingled with grandparents, mothers with strollers, and workers in Hi-Vis vests.
In 115 cities and towns across Australia, and across the globe to United Nations headquarters in New York, millions rallied under the broad banner of “School Strike for Climate” on September 20 to confront the climate crisis and press for change.
They represented all ages and all walks of life – from those calling for the overthrow of a broken system, to those who fear for the future, and the faithful who believe taking a climate stand is “a God-given responsibility”.
“I’m here to tell the government that climate change is real, and when I get older it will be worse if it continues like this,” Jessica, a Year 6 student, said.
“It’s not a political issue, it’s not a partisan issue, it’s a moral issue,” another young campaigner said.
“We need to stop it now, we’re running out of time, and if we don’t fix it no one else will.”
Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, now the best-known face of the climate movement sparked the “School strike for Climate” a little over a year ago in her hometown of Stockholm and the idea spread like wildfire around the world.
In Ms Thunberg’s words, “act like the house is on fire – because it is”.
The movement has galvanised a broad spectrum of people because the impacts are being felt everywhere and affecting lives and livelihoods.
The Church, particularly Pope Francis, has been an influential force in linking the intersecting concerns of environmental responsibility and authentic human development.
“What is distinctive about us is that we see what we are doing as a sacred responsibility given to us by God,” Catholic social justice advocate Peter Arndt said as tens of thousands rallied in Brisbane’s Queens Gardens.
To reinforce the faith commitment to combating climate change, Mr Arndt, who is Brisbane archdiocese’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission executive officer, joined other Church leaders attending an ecumenical prayer meeting ahead of the rally.
“We are tapping in to what Pope Francis said in Laudato Si’ (On Care for Our Common Home), about strengthening our solidarity with the rest of creation, and also strengthening our relationship with the poorest and most vulnerable peoples who are facing the greatest impacts of climate change and have the least capacity to do anything about it,” he said.
“It’s a compelling call for Catholics to stand up and show they care for our common home, a notion firmly build on Church teachings and especially relevant today during the Season of Creation.”
Demonstrators called for Australia, as the world’s largest exporter of coal and LNG, to take stronger action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In 2015 Australia was signatory to a UN target agreement to hold global warming to less than two degrees by the end of this century.
More ambitious targets have been called for to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees.
Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack defended Australia’s action to cut emissions.
Mr McCormack called climate rallies “a disruption” that should have been held on a weekend to avoid inconveniences.