School climate strikes return to Cambridge

Students took to the streets to raise awareness


Schools climate strikes resumed in Cambridge on a Friday morning last month (24/2) as school students took to the streets to raise awareness of the growing climate crisis.

The group marching through the city (Image Credits: Suzanne Morris

The march started at 10am on Parker’s Piece and headed towards the centre of town. Shoppers in the Grand Arcade were surprised as the group cut through their Friday morning shopping. The march ended on King’s Parade where protesters stopped for speeches.

I caught up with some of the school students participating after their stand in front of King’s College. When I asked them why they attended, in unison they responded that they wanted to send a message. That message was clear: as a society, we need to cut our consumption of fossil fuels if we are going to save this planet. They wanted to make it clear to the public, in particular the older generations, that young people were passionate about the climate.

This protest was the first of the school strikes back after Covid, drawing somewhere close to 30 supporters. One parent of the protesters explained that this was a pretty good turnout for the first one back.

Protestors in the Grand Arcade (Image Credits: Suzanne Morris)

Youth Strike 4 Climate started in Cambridge in 2019, since then the Cambridge Schools Eco Council has continued to organise protests of increasing size and attention. The Council draws together different schools from around the area like the ones protesting on Friday. The protestors I talked to mentioned how they were originally inspired by the actions of Greta Thunberg and her school strike. The protestors’ dedication to the cause was clear as the whole event was student-led.

Skepticism in the education system pervaded much of my conversation with the protestors. One student angrily claiming that their education “won’t help” when we feel the brunt of the climate crisis. There was frustration abound at the school system for not teaching enough about sustainability. This was accompanied by horror at the content of plastic in their school jumpers and the number of paper books that students were subjected to.

Protestors stopped outside King’s (Image Credits: Suzanne Morris)

As residents of the city and surrounding villages, the local council’s new congestion charge stood in the firing line too. The students said they were angry it was “not planned”. They believe it would simply lead to more congestion on the outskirts of the city. This paired with the failings of the local bus network to connect towns outside the city seemingly left the students with a dire picture of their hometown.

Unfortunately, the protestors had to get back to school soon after. They trailed off in the direction of the Fitzwilliam Museum chanting as they went:

“Hey! Ho! Fossils Fuels have got to go!”

“Climate! Justice!”

“What do we want? Climate Justice!”

“When do we want it? Now!”

The protest was attended by supportive university students, members of Cambridge Climate Justice (CCJ) who came to support. These were veterans of the climate justice movement it seems with resumés involving occupation of university buildings and the protest outside the university’s recent closed meeting on fossil fuel ties.

They too were frustrated by the city’s plans for a congestion charge which they believe is fundamentally unfair. Peach, a member of CCJ, said: “They don’t take into account the actual changes that need to be made to the city.” Peach claimed that the proposal doesn’t tackle wealth inequality, and its implementation was inaccessible and fundamentally unfair. Angry at both the City Council and the University, they felt like the institutions simply “weren’t listening.”

University students came along to support (Image Credits: Finton Hanks)

The discussion turned to a recent seminar about the university’s ties with the fossil fuel industry which CCJ protested against, alleging that attendees were exclusively in favour of persisting links with the industry. One student said that “it is disgusting that this is happening.” The lack of an opposing side in the debate over ties with fossil fuels particularly annoyed the students.

There was general approval of the school strikes with one protestor describing it as “heartwarming” that students were coming together for something they cared about. For the university students, it was “brilliant to see.”

When I asked if there was more climate action in the works one protestor merely chuckled and told me “there’s always things planned.”

It seems that the young generation in this city is only getting started. These climate advocates aren’t going anywhere yet.

The Greater Cambridge Partnership and the University of Cambridge have been contacted for comment.

Feature image credits: Finton Hanks

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