School strike for climate (New Zealand)

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Today, while I sat in my air conditioned office, a chant slowly grew in volume outside the window.  I’d been hearing it off and on all day, but now it was really noticeable.  I go to the window and see a procession of young protesters walking down Queen Street (the main street in Auckland).  They hold up their signs (some clever, some not-so-much) and chant “Hey hey, ho ho, climate change has got to go!”  They’re loud and they’re passionate.  For the first time today I realise that these kids are serious.

They spill over from the footpath and halt traffic, determined to be heard.  These are not kids who just want a cruisy day off school.  This is old-school type protesting, the kind we used to see.  You’ve got teens waving their arms and shouting in the faces of policemen, and you’ve got teens thrusting their signs at truck drivers, insisting they stop and take notice.  These kids are passionate.  They are sincere.  They are determined to make a difference.

At my last job, I was the second-oldest person in the office, and I had a number of co-workers who were in their very early twenties.  They were very passionate about climate change among other things.  They’d nag the rest of us about coming back from the supermarket with single-use plastic bags, or for not using reusable drink bottles at our desks.  It wasn’t inspired by anything other than a passion to save the planet.

I’ve never been passionate about recycling or any of the other myriad things I could be doing to help the planet.  I only started separating my recycling out recently.  By which I mean, in the last three years.  And I could still do better on that front.  I have only just stopped using single-use plastic bags , and it’s mostly because the supermarkets have stopped offering them.  I only started using public transport in December.  Yeah, it wasn’t an option for me the last two years, but it was for the seven years before that and I chose to use my car instead which was more expensive so there were no wins there.  I love nature (I’m a country girl who was brought up on a farm) and I love how beautiful our country is, but I’ve never put any effort into helping to maintain it.  I suck.

My friend Kat said it so eloquently in Sour Grapes and Humble Pie when she wrote ‘Maybe just maybe they are fighting for their life today. The life you got to enjoy already. With clean air, oceans to swim in and gardens to watch your kids play in.’  My kids are city kids, and sometimes I wonder at the difference between the childhood I had on the farm and the childhood they had in the city.  And it’s remarks like that which make me stop and think.  I’m going camping in April, and it’ll be fresh air, peace and quiet, hopefully enjoying nature.  I need to do my part to ensure that others have a chance to enjoy what I have already enjoyed and will continue to enjoy.

It’s easy to say that these kids just want a day off school, but the truth is, the generation after mine, the post-millenials, they ARE passionate about the environment.  They really are.  And they’ve got so many people today talking about climate change, the environment, and our personal responsibilities, so the truth is, they have achieved what they wanted to achieve.  They have been heard and they are making a difference.  That’s bloody inspiring.

Thoughts of Grace

I walked down Queen Street, in central Auckland, today and heard a busker singing this song as I walked past people lighting candles to go with the tributes left for Grace Millane.

I don’t often blog about current events.  In the 18 years that I’ve been blogging, I’ve probably blogged about national or global events ten or so times where the news has not directly impacted me.  It’s not something that I do.  I’m not interested in current affairs or politics.  But every now and then, I am touched, saddened, heartened or angered by such things.  I am emotionally affected, and therefore it seems appropriate to share that.

What makes Grace’s story so different from others?  Others have died.  Others have been murdered.  People as young or younger.  People with as much potential or more.  The truth is, I don’t know what makes Grace’s story different.  Only that it is.

My colleagues at work have discussed Grace.  Perhaps that’s because we work literally next door to the hotel in which she was murdered.  Perhaps it is because she is being discussed in offices around the country.  I have overheard people talking about her on the train.  And she has been discussed at home.

Every day as I walk past the hotel on my way to work, I see the tributes that people have left for Grace.  Flowers, gifts, etc.  From people who didn’t know Grace.  From people who never met Grace and never will.  People are grieving for someone they have never met.

I haven’t been following anything on social media, but I did notice there were a few people climbing on their soap boxes.  Saying that those who condemned Grace for travelling alone were perpetuating the cycle of violence against women. That any woman should be able to travel alone and be safe.  I agree.  I agree that any woman travelling alone should be safe.  But it is not the way it is.  I am reminded of the John Lennon song, Imagine.  There are so many dreams and wishes we might have for society, that every person should live in peace and never go without food, clean water, shelter and love.  But that’s not the way it is either.  Does that mean we don’t want it?  No, we do want it.  Does that mean we do nothing for those who are suffering?  Turn a blind eye?  No, it does not.  But it also does not mean that we turn a blind eye to the risks that are out there in the world.

I have been saddened by Grace’s death, and she has been much on my thoughts this week.  I don’t think she is a lesson to be learned.  But it is a tragedy.  As a mother of a daughter, I am very saddened by Grace’s death.  And I felt compelled to write something, to commemorate her.