Why should you join the School Strike 4 Climate?

20 May 2021

On 21 May, students across the country will go on strike to demand action on climate change. Organised by the School Strike 4 Climate, the rally calls for the Morrison government #FundOurFutureNotGas.

Its demands include:

  1. Resource of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led solutions that guarantee land rights and care for country
  2. Fund the creation of jobs that fast track solutions to the climate crisis and help communities recover
  3. Fund Projects that transition our economy and communities to 100% renewable energy by 2030, through expanded public ownership. 

The University of Melbourne (UMSU) Enviro Collective, in collaboration with the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and various UMSU Departments, will be meeting on South Lawn, 12pm on May 21 to strike for the climate. Join students and staff for the largest nationwide protest for the climate since COVID-19. 

So, why should you join the hundreds of UniMelb students and staff on strike?

The Climate Emergency has accelerated under the pandemic, with floods and bushfires ravaging the east coast. Despite this, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the Liberals plan to pour billions into new gas projects around the country, trampling over unceded Aboriginal land and locking in decades of disastrous carbon emissions.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison wants a “gas-fired recovery” from COVID-19. He wants it so badly he was willing to threaten the private sector with $600m in public money to build gas generators in the Hunter Valley. He even wants to disguise this by using the excess energy to generate “green hydrogen”. But make no mistake, gas is a dirty fuel. More gas would lock in decades of disastrous emissions, create very few jobs, and trample over significant Indigenous sites.

Science tells us we have eight years to transition to 100 per cent renewable energy. That’s eight years to systematically phase out and replace every coal, oil and gas generator with clean power. The technology to do this has existed for over a decade, but ideology and the profit motive are still getting in the way. We cannot allow the transition to renewables to happen on the terms of the free market. Such a transition would be too slow, chaotic and would happen on the backs of working people. Any project that stops being profitable, like the Port Augusta solar thermal plant, would be abandoned and left to rot.

Instead, we need urgent public investment in a publicly-owned 100 per cent renewable energy grid. We need to nationalise the patchwork of middlemen-operated electricity infrastructure that has done nothing but increase prices and obstruct upgrades. We need to pour money into new generators, substations, batteries and transmission lines, just as we did to build the current fleet of coal generators. We can do all this by taxing the mining billionaires who have reaped the spoils of Country while poisoning it and their own workers in the process.

Moreover, the federal government has thus far failed to bridge the gap between the current status quo and net-zero emissions, in regard to ensuring workers’ long-term stability. Workers’ exploitation at the hands of large-scale corporations would only continue without the security promised by a just transition, as their dependence on their market continually robs them of dignity and autonomy. Here, we suggest that this just transition is funded by the just taxation of these immense corporate monoliths, who have unfairly benefited from the exploitation of their labourers for too long. 

How will we win these sweeping changes? 

Ultimately, a strike is important because it recognises the immediacy of our current climate catastrophe; We’ve known about the intensity of this fire for decades, and yet, regrettably, refusing to look at it won’t put it out. Although they’re valid pursuits, pencil-pushing and tute attendance frankly do nothing to allay the crisis we’re inheriting. Ironically, as students, we, too, are in a kind of transition phase, coming into positions of significant autonomy and authority: Right now, it is imperative that we maximise our potential to change the world towards which we’re rapidly hurtling. Equally, if we learnt anything from 2020, it was that strikes and public demonstrations have power. Indeed, large-scale strike action seizes corporate attention because it halts profits, thereby ensuring that the strike’s resultant developments take place on workers’ terms. 

However, while the notion of the strike itself is important, what is more important is your attendance. As tertiary students, it’s imperative that we show solidarity with school students, altogether increasing the size and influence of the strike as a whole. Additionally, we must observe the importance of our involvement, as university students. A transition to clean energy in Australia demands research and funding, which all occurs at an institutional level. Naturally, study is important, but perhaps frivolous when underpinned by climate complacency.

We need to stop the Climate Emergency with a Climate Powered Recovery. That means forcing the government to directly invest in building 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030, with planned shutdowns of existing fossil fuel plants. If we are to make this target in time, public investment in a mass rollout is the only way.

Our new renewable energy system must be publicly owned and operated by unionised labour, to preserve jobs, conditions and cost of living. We must guarantee that no worker loses out as a result of this transition. We cannot have a repeat of the rushed transition at Hazelwood, which left hundreds of coal plant workers jobless and with no alternative work.

First Nations voices and rights must be at the forefront of the just transition. There should be no new developments without permission from Traditional Owners, so that travesties like the destruction of Wiradjuri artefacts by solar company METKA EGN are not repeated. The Government must commit to funding Indigenous land management programmes. We stand with the Indigenous resistance to new fossil projects at Narrabri, Beetaloo and elsewhere.

Help us spread this climate strike across our campus so we can give the school strikers a massive show of support on May 21. Get involved with the Enviro Collective and invite your friends, classmates, club mates, housemates, students, tutors and lecturers to strike on the day.


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