I was holding a large slab of chipboard steady while a bloke from Trades Hall screwed on milk crates to erect a makeshift stage. Dozens of us were milling around the steps of Melbourne’s grand Old Treasury Building, preparing to shepherd crowds of protesters safely through the streets. We’d come at the request of the student leaders who organised the strike. And suddenly I had to cry.
I’ve been to more rallies than I can remember. Helped organise them, spoken at them, played music at more than a few. There’s always too much standing around and long speeches you can’t quite hear, but still I like them. The feeling of power and unity that comes from marching in agreement with perfect strangers. But it’s not often I cry.
I would like to say it was a feeling of elation, of relief and excitement for the young people around the world rising up to shake the tree of global climate leadership. But that came later. First came a wave of fear and anguish for the brutal truth they are challenging. A world diminished and unsafe because previous generations delayed acting.
Then I heard them roar and hope rushed in. Upwards of 40,000 voices bouncing off Collins street skyscrapers. Hundreds upon hundreds of witty and poignant handpainted banners. Passers-by asked “What are they protesting?” When I explained, they said, “Oh, good.”
We are living through an extraordinary moment. The human and ecological toll of climate pollution is racking up and it is horrifying. But the pillars of privilege and denial are being torn down. Politicians once cowed by coal and oil barons now beat a steady retreat. Some even rush to be photographed with students skipping school to demand climate action.
Momentum is building. A wave of change is coming. The future generations are not waiting for the future. They’re here to claim it back.
This article appeared in Environment Victoria News, Issue 31, Autumn 2019.