School climate strikes spread

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Elementary, high school and college students in Norway are joining their counterparts abroad in shirking school on Fridays, to rally for the climate and against politicians who they don’t think are doing enough to halt climate change. Thousands were out protesting again this week in front of local City Halls and government buildings, from Kristiansand in the south to Tromsø in the north.

School strikes to protest climate change have begun on a small scale in Norway, but were being held all over the country on Friday. A nationwide strike is planned for March 22. The sign on the left reads that there’s been “enough talk, the climate demands action.” At right: “No oil (drilling) near the ice edge.” PHOTO: Natur og ungdom

They carried signs warning that their future is being destroyed, for example, by the Norwegian government’s ongoing refusal to rein in the country’s oil and gas industry. “Why should we study for a future we won’t get?” read other banners, in what could best be described as colourful forms of the Norwegian language,

“I’m standing under the banner ‘F*** fossil fuels’ because I think it’s high time that we move over to green energy sources,” Caroli Uhler, a biology student at the University of Tromsø, told state broadcaster NRK. “We have to get away from the thought of using fossil sources of energy.”

Students in Tromsø were protesting outside the local City Hall for the third Friday in a row, while other school climate strikes were taking place for the first time. Around 50 youth gathered in Kristiansand, while others protesed in Bodø, Arendal, Bergen, Oslo and Mandal.

Want politicians to ‘wake up’
“We’ve been working for a long time to get politicians to wake up and put the climate higher on their agenda,” said 16-year-old Miriam Mælen, who’s behind Bodø’s first organized school strike on Friday. She told NRK that a school strike is “the most powerful thing we can do to be heard.”

Many of those taking part in the school strikes in Norway have been inspired by 15-year-old Greta Thunberg of Sweden, who claims she’ll strike until the next national elections. She’s tired of Swedish politicians who avoided discussing climate issues in the last campaign.

Other strikes have taken place in Belgium, in England and elsewhere around the world as students rebel against politicians and industry officials who are defying rising demands from voters to make meaningful attempts to halt climate change. In Norway there’s been fury over the government’s decision to keep granting more oil and gas exploration licenses on the Norwegian Continental Shelf, especially against those granted in Arctic areas that are most sensitive to climate change.

National school strike March 22
The Norwegian environmental organization Natur og ungdom (Nature and youth) is planning a nationwide school strike on Friday March 22. The goal is “to get politicians to take responsibility in the climate campaign.” They contend that the next generation will pay the price of politicians’ refusal to cut carbon commissions, because of all the money generated by oil and gas and other industries.

“Instead of cutting emissions they’re opening up new areas of the Arctic to oil and gas exploration and planning airport expansions and new runways,” writes Natur og ungdom on its website. “There’s no point in studying if the environment is going to be destroyed, therefore we’re striking on March 22.”

Arild Sundfjord, a researcher at the Norwegian Polar Institute, told NRK that the students have real reason to be worried. “There’s been a quite radical increase in temperatures in the atmosphere and in the seas,” Sundfjord said. “We see that the ice is melting in the Arctic, and glaciers are receding. It’s absolutely real that climate change is underway, and all reason to believe it was generated by people, even though natual variations can be found.”

Mælen in Bodø claims the politicians simply must do more to cut the emissions generating climate change. “This is an international movement,” she said, “that we’ll see more and more of.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund