Opinion: I'm 12, And I Don't Understand Why Adults Vote To Destroy The Planet

Clem, a 12-year old Australian, is part of a global movement of school students striking over climate change. Here's what she has to say to the rest of us.

My name is Clem. I am 12 years old and I live in a small town in Far North Queensland, Australia. Where I live is so beautiful and so precious. It is the home of the largest living structure on Earth — the Great Barrier Reef. Vast mountains surround me and there is bright red dirt under my feet. It is almost always lovely and quiet here. All I can hear is the distant chirping of birds and the rustle of leaves. And that’s how I like it.

We had an election in Australia last weekend, and it did not go well. I feel angry and disappointed, because our government doesn’t take the climate emergency seriously. We don’t have a vote, but school students like me have been going on strike and working so incredibly hard to get them to listen.

I don’t understand why people would vote for politicians who don’t really care about the environment, especially when so many people are now aware of the consequences. Some people either don’t want to believe that climate change is happening, or they think that it is someone else’s responsibility to sort it out. They don’t want to risk losing any money if they have to make big changes in their lives. Many think that money is more important than the environment.

I also think people just don’t like change. But we need change, and young people are desperate for change.

Kids are watching as the coral reefs are bleached, houses are destroyed by floods, and fires burn the forests. Where I live, the heat waves were so intense this summer that wildlife was dropping dead from the trees. How can people accept this? How can adults put money or taxes before their own children and the natural world that sustains us?

There will be more destructive cyclones if we don’t change our ways, and more heatwaves harming wildlife. The Great Barrier Reef is almost gone, and we know what the warming world will do to the world’s poorest people, who will suffer the most.

Our politicians are not doing enough. They don’t want to change from coal to renewable energy, because of the power and money of the mining and energy industries. But you can’t have coral and coal. You can’t have a functioning planet if you keep burning fossil fuels. We sit in our classrooms learning about climate change and its awful effects, and then when we want to do something about it, the politicians criticise us.

It is for these reasons that people my age are striking. We don’t do it because we want to skip school. We do it because adults are not doing enough, and we want a better future. It feels inspiring and powerful to be a part of a global movement of students striking. It makes me feel like change is possible.

I have been to many marches and protests for the climate with my family too. We’ve stayed at a camp to stop a coal mine. I met so many lovely people there, young and old, who share my wish to protect the earth for future generations. Many of them have children or grandchildren themselves, or they want to one day. They are just like you or me.

There are also people in Queensland who work in coal mines. When we switch to renewable energies like wind and solar we can’t forget about them. The government needs to help them find work on wind and solar projects. We can find solutions if we try!

Despite the government, I am going to keep working and striking and protesting until change happens. Kids don’t give up easily. I will defend this unique, exquisite, astonishing planet we call our home. There are so many kids and adults around the world who are fighting for their future alongside me.

What other choice do we have?

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