A Transition Year student from Clare Island will ensure Co Mayo’s voice is heard when he participates in next Friday’s (March 15) nationwide school strike for climate action. The strike is part of the growing ‘Fridays for Future’ movement initiated last autumn by Swedish student, Greta Thunberg, who protested about this serious environmental issue outside the country’s parliament buildings in Stockholm.
Theo Cullen-Mouze, a student at Sancta Maria College Louisburgh, was one of the speakers who addressed more than 20 senators and TDs in Dáil Éireann last Wednesday, March 6. He was part of a student group from around the country announcing the Irish School Strike for Climate Action, which is being supported by some 90 schools across 20 counties to date.
In his address at Leinster House, Theo said: “I am here today to talk about climate change because for my community, this is not an abstract issue, it is a practical one that affects us on a daily basis. We live on the edge, and we are already suffering the consequences of climate change. Neighbours of mine [at the Quay on Clare Island] have been forced to build storm walls to keep their houses from ocean flooding, as winter storms grow more frequent, and more vicious. For a small coastal community, the risk of extreme weather conditions becoming worse is very grave indeed.
“I am here today to ask a question. That question is ‘why?’. Why do our politicians refuse to hear the facts that you are presented with? Why are we refusing to seize the obvious solutions that are within our grasp? Why are we refusing to take action now?”
Theo Cullen-Mouze observed that while we have ‘the technology to transform our society from one which relies on fossil fuels to one which relies on sustainable, renewable energy’, the problem is that there is ‘a lack of will to do so’.
“Today, our generation is saying: we want you to change that. We want you to help us lead Ireland into the future we deserve. We need you to lead, by following our lead. Ireland cannot afford to wait. The planet cannot afford to wait. Please make Ireland a leader in the fight against climate change, or our generation will find new leaders willing to take on this existential challenge. We are not going away, because the climate calamity is not going away. Please listen to us,” he continued.
The group of students set out a set of initial demands at the meeting. Among them was a demand that ‘Government declares a climate emergency and prioritises the protection of life on Earth, taking active steps to achieve climate justice’.
Their action has been strongly endorsed by former President Mary Robinson, the chairwoman of The Elders, a group of independent global leaders who work together for peace, justice and human rights.
Speaking afterwards, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he was ‘inspired and enthused that school pupils are taking a real interest in climate action, and are ‘putting it up to all of us in all parties, all adults, to do more when it comes to climate action’.
Students will strike from school on Friday next, March 15 as part of the European-wide Fridays for Future movement. They are protesting at the lack of response that world leaders have had in tackling climate change and are calling on their governments to implement and take action on policies to cut carbon emissions in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement, 2015.