Young Quaker climate strikers call for support from Friends

Unified climate action can bridge intergenerational divides and protect our living planet, writes Faith Biddle

young quaker climate activists
Five Quakers urge Friends around Britain to show up for the climate strike. Photo: Faith Biddle

On Saturday 14 September five young Quakers – Pearl Johns, Isabel Crags, Sam Martell, Lisa McQuillan and I – met for a day of youth climate action education at the National Volunteering Centre in London.

We were there for the Youth Climate Takeover, an event organised by Amnesty International, National Students Union, Islamic Relief, young Quakers and many others. It brought young people together ahead of the Global Climate Strike on Friday 20 September.

We met everyone else over a shared lunch. Many belonged to faith groups, and many were members of Friends of the Earth, the National Union of Students, and Amnesty. Our diverse group shared common reasons for being there: we wanted to learn how to share ideas on how to make our government listen to our demands, and feel united in our common mission to protect our living planet.

Fresh perspectives

We heard from youth leaders about the fact that climate change is an issue of race, faith, privilege and equally about the environment, nature and human rights. A young Muslim woman spoke about her faith's places of pilgrimage, such as Mecca, that will soon be too hazardous to walk to due to the rising temperatures.

We heard from a secondary school student who respond to adults that challenge them on school attendance and striking by syaing 'we can catch up on school work, but we cannot reverse the climate crisis'. The education system is broken, they argued; schools should be teaching young people how to live sustainably on the planet.

We heard about ecological destruction, the loss of biodiversity, and mass extinction. The growth of global economies and consumerism need to stop – we cannot have infinite growth on a planet with finite resources.

Looking after the movement

We learnt how to be thoughtful in the use of our language and to remember to be inclusive as people resonate with the words 'climate crisis' differently. To open up those conversations, we each need to find a common ground between groups we are part of and how they are contributing to the climate crisis. Then we can find ways forward within our groups and as individuals to becoming sustainable.

Every one of us has a duty to act in the face of great challenges, and we saw that the stillness and grounding offered by faith communities can help people keep going in the long term.

Finally, most importantly, we learnt about the pressing urgency of this climate crisis and how we must act now.

We felt empowered by what we heard, and wanted to encourage you, the rest of our Quaker community, to join us in supporting the youth climate strikes in whatever way you can.

Actions you can take:

  • Be vocal in your support of youth climate strikers; intervene when you see others attempt to squash the views and plans of young people.
  • Join your nearest strike demonstration – since August 2018, they have been happening on the third Friday of every month.
  • If you can't attend strike events, share your support on social media, and send an encouraging message to those protesting so they know they're not alone.

Every action big or small makes a difference. So we'll leave you with one message of the day – only 3.5% of a society's population need to act for a social movement to make lasting change. If you give wholesale support to young people who are lobbying for radical climate policies, it makes the changes we need more likely.

Learn more about joining the climate strike movement