‘We adults have let the kids down over climate change’

The Lamp spoke to Deanna Hayes, an NSWNMA member and St George Private Hospital nurse, about her son Ambrose’s involvement in the School Strike for Climate.

Kids shouldn’t have to go on strike and miss school to get more action on climate change but they obviously feel that this is a vital issue. The strike is a way for them to do something about it. 

This student generation are much more environmentally and politically aware than I was at that age and they are going to be voting in a few more years.

We adults have let the kids down over climate change. We could have done an awful lot more by now. Action is still happening too slowly because carbon emissions are rising faster than expected. 

For example, deforestation is a major contributor to climate change but the NSW government has given the green light to more land clearing. The government could act on that very quickly if they chose to do so.

Reducing the amount of waste we generate in hospitals is one way of helping to reduce carbon emissions. Most of the recycling at my work in the operating theatres has been initiated by nurses and we have a staff-run ’green team’ that oversees all the recycling streams, to make sure waste is separated correctly. 

I’m happy that Ambrose is involved in the climate strike because it’s a cause that’s very close to my own heart. My being focused on environmental issues for all of his life has obviously rubbed off on him.

When I see Ambrose having online meetings with students from different parts of Australia, I realise how much he has learned from being involved.

I think Ambrose has also learned a lot through exposure to the media. Steve Price on 2GB gave him a hard time but he held his own.  Ambrose didn’t know all the facts but he knew enough and he didn’t let Price rattle him. Social media comments about the interview were mostly supportive of Ambrose and not this adult who had tried to make him look ignorant and small, and ended up doing the opposite.

Our friends are supportive of Ambrose and impressed that he’s taking on such a role at his age.  He’s always been a fairly serious young man who is happy talking to adults about things. My youngest son is only nine and doesn’t understand much about what his brother is doing but my 12-year-old daughter is concerned about these issues too. She wants to come to the next strike rally and I’ll go with her. 

I went to the last student climate rally as a first aider. The student speakers were very passionate and knowledgeable. One girl from the Pacific islands spoke about how her family there is already being affected by rising sea levels due to climate change.

It’s great that students want to broaden their support by inviting unions and other adult organisations to take part in the next rally. 

One newspaper article claimed the kids are pawns of environmental extremists. The students do need some adult help to do things like liaise with police and councils and hire a stage and equipment, but I know from what I see Ambrose doing that it is a student initiative and they do the majority of the organising work.

What scientists say about climate change

Warnings from the world’s leading scientists underline why school students are upset about human-induced climate change.

In 2016, world governments adopted the Paris Agreement on climate change aimed at keeping a global temperature rise this century below two degrees Celsius while “pursuing efforts” to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees.

The consequences of global warming are likely to be “dire” even if these targets are met, the United Nations’ scientific advisory board warned last year.

The board, known as the Intergovern-mental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said even 1.5 degrees of warming is likely to be disastrous for the health and livelihood of many millions of people.

Consequences would include the displacement of millions of people by sea-level rise, a decline in global crop yields and the loss of most of the world’s coral reefs.

To have a reasonable chance of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees, the IPCC said, global carbon dioxide emissions would need to be halved by 2030 and reduced more or less to zero by 2050.

However, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change rose in 2018 and are expected to continue to rise this year.

“It’s like a deafening, piercing smoke alarm going off in the kitchen,” commented Erik Solheim, the executive director of the UN Environment Program.

Get involved

For more information about the Strike for Climate and how you can become involved contact: alice.egglestone@caha.org.au