Scores of children from Diss, Eye and surrounding villages take part in climate strikes
More than 100 children took to the streets of Diss and Eye on Friday, November 29, taking time out of their lessons, to campaign for action on climate change.
The Fridays for Future protests have been inspired by Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg, who began spending her school days outside the Swedish Parliament to call for stronger action on global warming.
Children from Diss, Eye and the surrounding villages could be seen holding up hand-painted placards that read “Save our planet” and “There is no planet B”, marching up and down the towns’ centres.
The strike in Diss was primarily supported by parents and grandparents, with Diss High School taking the view that any participation would be classed as unauthorised absence.
Headteacher Dr Jan Hunt said: “Our primary concern was some young children wanting to leave the school site for two hours with no direct adult supervision.
“Our concerns have been entirely with health and safety in mind – we completely understand the motivation and support the need to tackle climate change.”
She added: “The school has its own climate change committee, which is very proactive.”
The strike in Eye was organised by 10-year-old Mae-Li Sun and her mum Jo Clifford, from Mill Street, Gislingham, who wanted to raise awareness of the climate crisis.
The strike in Diss was organised by 17-year-old Alice Mills, from Worlingworth, and her aunt Sophie Ruscoe, after Alice met Mae-Li at the Eye Goes Green fair in autumn.
The protest kicked off at 10am at Mere’s Mouth, where people had a chance to talk to protesters as well as sign an open letter in support of Fridays for Future Suffolk and the global youth climate movement.
“We set up the strike so that people don’t have to drive to one,” said Jo, 49, who also supported the Diss strike.
“It’s really important that everybody makes as many necessary changes as they can; some of them are really unpalatable and they are going to be inconvenient or difficult, but the alternative is much worse.”
She added: “If we care about our children, grandchildren and future generations, there really is no choice and we have to do what we don’t want to do.”
The UK government has pledged to cut carbon emissions to net zero by 2050, however, youth climate activists and most scientists say that this will be too little, too late.
Mum-of-two Victoria Trevor, 47, from Roydon said: “My children are young and I worry about the future of our planet.
“I have been to the Amazon and it was magical, it is my favourite place on this planet. But I saw first-hand what’s happening and it was shocking. It’s really important that we make a stand.”
Last month, a statement from a clutch of world scientists warned that we risk “untold suffering” unless there are radical changes to society.
The lack of action by the Government is what worries two pupils at Palgrave Primary School, who decided to attend the Diss strike.
Oak Mortlock, nine, from Thrandeston, said: “I am a little bit sad that the Government is not doing anything. I really care about the ocean and all the animals we haven’t discovered yet.”
He added: “If I were the Prime Minister, I would make it so that there are more electric cars and all the houses have solar panels and we stop using fossil fuels. I would also make sure that all children know about it [the climate crisis].”
Echoing his sentiments, Toby Fausset, nine, said: “We don’t have a second planet, so if this one gets destroyed, we are all destroyed pretty much, too.”
The climate crisis has emerged as one of the key points in UK election manifestos.
The main party leaders – with the exception of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who refused to participate – took part in a climate debate on Channel 4.
Toby’s dad Rupert, 53, said: “I think involvement of young people is vital because it is their future we are talking about.
“Many people who are voting will not experience the worst of this.”
The strike in Eye, which took place in Broad Street from 1pm to 3pm, was well supported by students from Hartismere School and Eye Primary School.
Explaining the reason for the strike, Jo said: “We want to spread the word and we want people to start thinking.
“We need the Government to start telling the truth about the climate crisis and teach it in the schools so that people know what we are facing and are armed with the knowledge that will help them do something about it.
"We are all in this together.”
More by this authorVictoria Scheer