“The climate is more important than the school absence laws”
“We must change, we adults need to change!”
“Save my Future”
These are some signs that I read from a distance as I approached the Rådhuset in Tromsø. Today is the Norwegian national day for the School Strike for Climate: Skolestreik for Klima. Around ONE THOUSAND people were counted over the 1 hour strike. In context, Tromsø population is only about 70,000. The youngest that I saw in the crowd was only 6 years old.
HOWEVER this right is at risk of being taken away from those who are still at school. School children choose to attend the strike from 11:00-12:00 every friday instead of attending school. They are allowed to do so under ‘political absence’. However, some wish to take this right away from them and therefore making their absence from school illegal.
What signal do you think this is sending out? Are people scared of the voices of the youth? If so why? Adults are allowed to take leave from work under ‘political absence’; why should youths not have the same right???
I left the school strike full of hope. I have had quite a tough past week emotionally. I have had various conversations with people about the perceptions of Norwegian society and change. Some have the opinion that Norwegians are reserved, that they do no like to speak out, that they do not like confrontation or conflict, that there is not much competition between people etc.. and as a result these add up to mean that change will never really occur.
BUT I DO NOT BELIEVE THIS TO BE TRUE!
I spoke with two school children aged 14 who proved this view totally wrong.
They were motivated to attend the strike because they thought it was very important to speak up and to have conversations about climate change. They had learned that not enough was being done, and they had to do something about it. They said they were able to be there because so many other like-minded youths were also making the effort to attend. They felt safe to speak up because of the shared voices of everyone coming together.
THE MAIN BARRIERS:
The two girls believed the main barriers were that they did not think the politicians were doing enough to help support individual actions for climate change. They were not investing in and developing changes that would allow people to reduce their carbon footprint.
They believed the transport system was not developed enough to allow people to travel with the low carbon option. They said that the bus system was not developed enough, there are no cycling lanes in Tromsø to aid people to cycle, and the wide transport links to the south were also not developed enough. They felt the only easy way to travel to the south was by plane as there is no train connection from Fauske to Tromsø. One must take a bus from here to Narvik and from Narvik to Fauske which is pretty slow.
The two girls believed that the North was too controlled by the South. They were aware that many people have to travel often to Oslo for meetings and other reasons. They didn’t think this was right and that the North should have more more independence; the North should be able to function without having to do this.
Another barrier was that they believed society as a whole was not educated enough about the effect of their actions. They said although people are aware we need to fly less, eat less meat, and other things, many are not fully aware of how much difference this can make. Because they are not educated about this, they will not feel motivated to actually change their behaviours.
The solution they felt most strongly that the wider population needed to be educated about the impact of their actions. They were very hopeful in this solution and believed that if people become educated they will voluntarily choose the lower-carbon alternative.
They also wanted to have a better transport options. They wanted the option to be able to take a bus at any hour and anywhere in the Tromsø area. They also wanted a train connection between Tromsø and Fauske, so one could take the train the whole way from Tromsø to the south.
I questioned whether they truly thought that education was enough. Would an informed person still take a long bus or train journey which is very expensive, versus a quick, cheap flight? Would people voluntarily pay more to take the bus than drive their own car? Would people cycle on the cycle lanes (if they are built) in cold and snowy temperatures? Would they choose these lower carbon, often more inconvenient options, just because they know that it will not contribute as much to climate change?
They came to the realisation that perhaps education was not enough by itself.
A further solution they came up with is they realised the importance that the politics must also support us to change our behaviour and to set an example. They agreed that the decision should not just be left to us. They would like that the lower-carbon options should always be cheaper than the higher-carbon options.
I was blown away by these two youths who were very informed about the science of climate change, the intricacies of the politics surrounding the issues, and the complexity of human behaviour. They were very open to speak with me and share their concerns and ideas for the future.
We will be taking away a huge voice and variety of ideas if their right to share them is taken away from them. This IS their future. They have just as much right to have a say in their future as the older generations who have the power over the decisions how our society allows change to occur.
I believe the strike to be very important to show the youth’s determination, knowledge and creativity for change. As much as I believe the strike is important, I wish to develop the strike further and harness their voices. Perhaps the strike will be more powerful if we turn the words of the youth into writing and record the youth’s wishes and possible solutions to the kommune for their future. In this way we can lay even more pressure for change.
A REFLECTION ABOUT MY CHALLENGE:
It is becoming easier and easier to have conversations with people. I have learned a great deal how to hold space for people to share their ideas with me.
Because I often approach people and start a conversation, I begin the conversation with the ‘lead’ or the ‘upper hand’. I have learnt to ask the other person questions about themselves- on their motivations and views- as early on in the conversation as I can. From there, I ask them questions on what they have told me. I try to not include my opinions too much as I wish to learn from THEM. I try to keep my replies neutral and meet them where they are to ensure that I create a supportive space for their voice. In this way, it has made me a better listener and taught me really what it is to listen.
Often in conversations we are not really listening because we are often thinking what our reply can be; how can we contribute to this conversation??? The conversation is definitely not about me and my opinions, it is all about them!
THANK YOU SO MUCH TO THE TWO I SPOKE TO TODAY.
You are impressively well informed, intelligent, engaged, motivated, caring, and courageous. It can be vulnerable to speak out, but you are all doing a great job and provide mounds of inspiration.