On Friday 15th February I took a folding chair, a collapsed cardboard box and some marker pens and headed to the steps of St Magnus Cathedral, a central hub for the community here in Orkney. It was the day when the young people of the UK were called upon by teenage Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg to strike, to leave their schools and colleges and gather publicly to show politicians and corporations that climate change is the Number One issue for future generations.
What could I, in my 60’s and with no children of my own, do to support these young people? My generation simply has not done enough to mitigate the effects that our consumerist lifestyles have had on the environment. It’s Too Difficult for us - but it is imperative for them to rise to the challenge if their descendants are to have a chance of good and long lives on our planet.
I posted on the Facebook group Orcadians Going Green to say that I would be on the Cathedral steps to show support for the young people who are the story of the day. By the time I had set up my chair, written my sign and caught up with my gloves that had blown away in the wind I was beginning to think I would have a lonely time in the cold, although it was a gloriously sunny morning. I took a selfie but couldn’t quite get all my sign in!
Soon enough Frankie arrived from Stromness, on the other side of Orkney Mainland. Having recently left school she is waiting to leave for Nigeria as a volunteer to build toilets for three primary schools, Frankie was great company even if I did worry that she needed many more layers of clothing on! She increased the value of my morning by 100%!
Then people started coming across to talk to us. They were thanking us for being there and raising awareness and saying that they were sorry they hadn’t had the courage to show their own support in a public way. We had good conversations about how valuable it is for us all to keep up recycling, growing veg, shopping locally and for local food, trying to use green energy and low energy light bulbs and all the other changes that are quite easy to make in our own homes. A recurring theme in such conversations is always ‘but is this making a difference?’ Of course the answer is Yes, but we need businesses, corporations and government to join in too and to make their targets, especially as committed to at the Paris Climate Agreement.
Of course there were some muttering about current political issues. I loved Frankie’s observation that every time the PM goes anywhere there is an entourage of big engined cars accompanying her on even the shortest journeys, for which electric cars would be perfect. Good point Frankie - and a business opportunity for Jonathan at eco-cars.net?
Did we achieve anything, apart from getting very cold? In a tiny way we did because we had some conversations and that is a big part of starting to bring about change. BBC Radio Orkney came to interview us so that should spread the message of our support for the SchoolsStrike4Climate further. Next time, here in Orkney, I hope it will be the young that are on the Cathedral steps, joining in with tomorrow’s voters around the globe. They are not wasting their schooling opportunities, Mrs May. They are learning what we should have been taught: how to be responsible citizens in a sustainable world.
Here’s the clip from BBC Radio Orkney - it starts about 2 mins 25sec after the Radio Orkney music begins. https://m.mixcloud.com/radioorkney/around-orkney-monday-18th-february-2019/