The kids are revolting

25 February 2019 | Posted in Planning , Tony Whitbread
The kids are revolting

By Dr Tony Whitbread

Guest blog

Friday 15 February was the day that school students around the world took to the streets to demand that world leaders start some serious action to address our environmental crisis.  We had our own excellent examples, for instance here in Brighton.

You could feel various emotions on hearing this. 

First should be shame.  While we might point to all sorts of things that we feel we’ve done, the basic fact is that we have failed.  For instance, in 1992 the UK, along with most countries in the world, signed both the Climate Change Convention, and the Convention on Biological Diversity.  A generation ago we committed to really doing something about the environmental crisis.  Since then, however, we have emitted more carbon dioxide than in the previous 200 years and the world has slipped into its 6th mass extinction.  Extinction rates now are between 1,000 and 10,000 times the background rate.  Our situation is about as serious as the mass extinction that saw off the dinosaurs.

Our generation has failed, and we’ve failed spectacularly.

Second, we might feel enthusiasm.  The kids are revolting, they have got some buzz about them and it doesn’t look like they are going to accept any nonsense.  This is perhaps the brightest ray of hope that has emerged for a very long time.  A failed generation has woken a justifiable anger in young people.

Third is our own anger.  The students raise obvious issues – the climate and environmental crises are the most serious issues of our time, yet they are given a pathetic level of attention by both the media and world leaders.  The contract between one generation and the next has been broken – we are taking their future from them and not even talking about it.  They know it and are not going to put up with it.  The past generation of environmentalists should feel anger for battering our heads against a brick wall trying to raise the concerns, and give positive solutions, yet we’ve been constantly marginalised.

The clarity of the arguments put forward by those on school strike was impressive. 

We may claim that we done a great deal to address the most important issues of our time.  All these kids need do, however, is point to the results – feeble. 

Some criticised them for campaigning on a school day - they should do it on their day off.  A weekend demo, however, would simply not have been reported by the media.  Quiet complaint has been tried – it failed. 

They should be at school working.  “We’ll do our homework when you do yours” was one great response.  “Why improve our knowledge of science when governments do not act on the science they already have?” – a charge that is difficult to answer.

Theresa May said they are wasting teachers time – the response was that while this may be true, governments have wasted 30 years, which is worse!  “2 years bitching about Brexit while the planet is dying” was such a good poster it almost went viral.

As worn out old cynics we might say that they don’t yet know how difficult or complicated it all is – they are being simplistic.  But that is their right.  Youth has a great knack of getting to the nub of a problem – cutting through the fluff and saying it how it is.  The past generation can try to confuse and procrastinate, but the facts speak for themselves.

There is going to be another school strike on 15 March.  A little while ago, Greta Thunberg one of the motivators behind the strike said that they are not there to ask for change but to say that change is coming whether we like it or not.  This is no longer just a demonstration – it’s a movement.  

 Dr Tony Whitbread is an independent ecologist and former Sussex Wildlife Trust CEO


  • Kate Edmonds:

    28 Feb 2019 11:45:00

    Hi Tony, fantastic blog. Well done for speaking up honestly about the mess we’re in and supporting the kids. Us “grown ups” now need to get behind the kids and support them in demanding governments take massive new action to reverse the direction of travel. Only action matters! Don’t just support from the sidelines. Get out and demonstrate. For example join Extinction Rebellion’s “Funeral for our Planet” in Lewes on 16 March.

  • Carine Willemse:

    28 Feb 2019 12:56:00

    Well put, Tony. The striking students really have a point and definitely have my support.

  • Paul Lovatt Smith:

    28 Feb 2019 13:29:00

    Well said Tony Whitbread. It was an INSETT day that day but I told my 14 year old son that he would have had my full support had his school been open and he decided to go on strike.

  • Jean:

    28 Feb 2019 13:50:00

    The 4th emotion you could have mentioned is:

    Do I continue to fund Sussex Wildlife Trust when it promotes anti-Tory protests from brainwashed school children?

    Some of the chants from these kids were sickening, and following this article has only resulted in me questioning my support for SWT.

    It’s not just those on the left that care about the environment and emissions from the U.K. are not the problem.

    Globalisation is a big cause of increased emissions – how about you advocate for less migration and more localism? Or does that not tie-in with your political agenda?

  • richard battson:

    28 Feb 2019 14:39:00

    Glad your freedom has enabled you to speakout more decisivly and glad swt has included it on their news.

  • Lynnette Leeson:

    28 Feb 2019 15:28:00

    I totally agree Tony. We must give the younger generation our support to raise the most important environmental issue ever and get politicians to put climate change as a priority.

  • Dinah Pryor:

    28 Feb 2019 16:17:00

    Tony, thank you for speaking for us ‘worn out’ oldies who have tried, but failed. Changing our personal behaviour has not proved enough to avert a climate emergency. As Kate says, we have to follow the lead of our children and demand radical change from the Government. That is why I will be walking silently down the High Street in Lewes on 16th March with Extinction Rebellion. And that is why I will be joining many others to walk from the south coast, arriving in London for 15th April. We need a huge shift and it is words and actions like yours that give us hope.

  • sally griffin:

    28 Feb 2019 17:31:00

    I was so enthused, and encouraged to see all those young people demonstrating, it gave me a surge of hope. How pathetic and contemptible, I thought, were the jobsworth criticisms by some politicians and some head teachers, who just didn’t “get it” , didn’t grasp the real urgency—even now at this late stage. If head teachers feel that their duty is to take measures to encourage their students to stay in class, and to be seen to be doing so, they could at least, at the same time, have applauded their pupils’ commitment and sense of priority, because this is more important than merely theoretical education. Had I known the students were out, I’d have been on the pavement supporting them with a placard. It really is time for votes at 16, for goodness sake. What is the evidence that we really get wiser as we get older!

  • Steve haynes:

    28 Feb 2019 19:21:00

    So how many of these kids are going to eschew the holiday flights to Marbella and Grenoble? How many will give up meat? How many will commit in their future lives to one kid or better still, no kid at all?

    Think they’d be better employed getting educated so they can get good qualifications and make a real contribution in future to the world’s problems.

    Sad to see S W T getting involved in such a blatant and naive political stunt.

    Steve Haynes

  • 01 Mar 2019 09:58:00

    @Jean – Dear Jean,

    Tony makes it clear in his blog that this is a global issue. Climate change is the single biggest threat to wildlife (in Sussex but also elsewhere) and as such Sussex Wildlife Trust has been involved for several decades in trying to influence decision makers and policies. Tony more than anyone has tried to push this agenda forward. We do not consider it a party political issue, we expect our elected members on both sides of the house to push for change in UK policy and for UK representatives to commit us to ambitious, appropriate international targets. We expect the same of policies related to biodiversity and the future of our wildlife. Climate change and biodiversity loss are both topics that need their profile elevated within the political arena. They impact everybody and as such are not appropriate topics for party level politics, but require long term, cross house support.

    It is on the above principle that we support the sentiments of Greta Thunberg. Sussex Wildlife Trust are not accountable for the chants and slogans used within the March, but we standby by the principle of its existence.

    Henri Brocklebank, Director of Conservation Policy

  • Kate Edmonds:

    02 Mar 2019 14:40:00

    Thank you, Henri, for your confirmation that SWT supports Tony’s words. I hope it will continue to do so even if it means losing the support of people like Jean who seem to care more about kids using a bit of sweary language than saving the planet.

  • steve haynes:

    03 Mar 2019 11:17:00

    Uncomfortable about the political slant of the original blog, Mr Brocklebank’s response, and frankly, the ignorant and mis-informed attitude of the majority of respondents.

    Please cancel my subscription.

  • Gerald:

    03 Mar 2019 14:46:00

    Thanks for highlighting this campaign. Climate warming can’t be ignored by any generation

  • emma ryder:

    03 Mar 2019 17:30:00

    All credit to these young people for getting climate change talked about. Fingers crossed those in power will start to listen!

  • Alice Nichols:

    05 Mar 2019 22:43:00

    Thank you so much for this!!!! As a parent of three children under twelve I will be attending this and supporting my older two children to attend. There is nothing I can think of more important for their future.
    After a bit of searching I found the website needed with all the details. Please share widely, donate and or attend a march, whatever your age!

  • Colin Upton:

    06 Mar 2019 13:19:00

    Although I do not agree at all with Steve he does raise one serious point, that I feel has yet to be addressed by conservationists, that of overpopulation. The fact is that more people means less space for wildlife, and trees that are so vital for combating climate change and pollution.
    Having lived in Shoreham for 70 years I am well aware that the sea level is rising. Even if all countries were to implement the Paris agreement it would make little difference, The young people are right to be concerned. The recent expensive sea defense works in Shoreham will eventually prove to be inadequate, in my opinion, those who live near the coast should study the effects of climate change. The prospects for the future are grim. I support the children it is a rare sign of hope in these troubling times.

  • 08 Mar 2019 14:35:00

    Great article by Dr Tony Whitbread, The Kids are revolting. These kids inspired me to write a letter to the Portsmouth News in support of their actions, expressing my admiration for their savvy and articulation, which to my surprise became the Letter of the Day.

    It is so painful to realise that my generation is the most responsible for the global environmental crisis that we are in. And also that as an individual I am also part of the problem but it is equally important to be empowered and realise that as individuals we are also part of the solution, in addition to the behaviour and actions of Governments.
    The individual decisions that we make, including the size of our families in the UK and industrialised countries (not just in the third world) has a massive consequence for the environment.

    I was never fortunate to have a family of my own but this personal loss is now becoming a consolation with the horrific damage we are doing to the planet and the thoughtless and selfish ways in which we are behaving. As a society we are in total denial and the kids were trying to break through this delusional wall of self deception.

  • 15 Mar 2019 14:46:00

    Hi there,
    I was so affected by the words of these children & loved this article. I just realised it’s the 15th of March today. Please could you let me know if there is to be another one anytime soon as me & my teenage kids from Chichester would like to get involved. Many thanks.

  • 16 Mar 2019 09:25:25

    @Lucy Stares: I think the Climate Strikes are planned monthly, if you follow the Strike4Youth facebook group they should have all the details:

  • simon:

    16 Mar 2019 09:44:00

    Prime Minister Comrade Corbyn will sort it out when he gets to No 10! He’ll push us back to the Stone Age where there’ll be no need for energy, renewable or otherwise! But be assured, the Indians and Chinese will continue to build hundreds of coal burning power stations until their own kids are in the same happy condition of spoilt materialism and mollycoddling as ours are!


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