‘I’m calling all students to strike now for climate because we have to – or we’re all gonna die. There’s no societies on a dead planet, there’s no classes on a dead planet and there’s no fucking UCD on a dead planet! When our planet is under attack – Stand Up. Fight Back.’ These were the raging calls from UCD Labour Chairperson Cormac Ó Braonáin to UCD students gathering to protest later that day. Friday September 20th saw one of the world’s largest Global Climate Strikes, with UCD sending a sizeable delegation of enraged and empowered students to call for immediate action for the government on climate change.
Thousands of students took to the streets of Dublin on Friday as part of the Global Climate Strike. This larger strike saw millions of students protesting around major cities worldwide. The Dublin march saw primary, secondary and third level students protesting alongside one another, in the name of fighting climate change.
UCD students led by members of UCDSU and representatives of student political societies took part in large numbers at the march. Beginning the protest in UCD with a large walkout from a number of UCD societies from the Freshers tent, the day began with speeches from UCDSU Campaigns & Engagement Officer Katie O’Dea and others. Amongst those speaking to the crowd were Lisa Frank Murnane (UCD Young Greens and UCDSU Environmental Campaigns Coordinator), Cormac Ó’Braonáin (UCD Labour) and Sadhbh Mac Lochlainn (UCD Socialist Worker Student Society). The crowd began with a practice of chants such as ‘No more coal, no more oil. Keep your carbon in your soil,’ and ‘System change. Not climate change.’
Speaking to the College Tribune, O’Dea said: ‘We are marching today because the Irish government and governments around the world have not acted appropriately to the climate crisis that we are facing. We’re calling on them to follow the demands of the school strikers and to implement the recommendations of the Citizens Assembly on climate change.’
UCD FilmSoc Auditor Odin O’Sullivan partook in the walkout from the Freshers tent to join the march. He talked to us about why his society was striking: ‘We’re striking because the issues in regard to climate change, and the absolute ignorance with our current government and governments around the world, is too much to ignore at this point. As a representative of the Film Society, of Socialist Workers in general and in particular as a student I think that it is important to come out to the streets to showcase that we will no longer stand for inaction on the part of our government.’
UCD students were bussed into town to rally with over 10,000 students outside Custom House Quay. The students chanted in their respective groups before marching towards Merrion square. The rare late September sunshine made for a rather apt day for a climate change march. The crowd protested throughout the streets for Dublin, holding up signs reading: ‘Time Is Running Out’ – ‘The Oceans Are Rising. So Are We’ – ‘The Climate Is Changing. Why Aren’t We?’
Speaking to students throughout the march, there was certainly a hunger for a radical system change in order to effectively tackle the impending climate crisis. The language heard from students was definitively anti-capitalist and suggested that the ‘big corporations’ and the ‘government’s inaction’ are to blame for the problem that is being handed to the emerging generations of today.
Global Climate activist Greta Thunberg commented on these strikes in an interview with the Guardian: ‘Of course, marches like these won’t do any concrete action. I mean, it won’t change everything, but it’s such a strong message. And I think that if enough people go together and stand up for this, then that can have [a] huge difference, both with social differences, social tipping points, but also to put pressure on the people in power and to actually hold them accountable.’
UCD Labour Chairperson, Cormac Ó Braonáin, spoke to the Tribune on why he was marching: ‘I mean, what choice do I have? The planet is dying, [I’m marching] for my children, for myself, for my grandchildren. […] The planet is hurtling into a mass extinction and I cannot fathom how anyone cannot strike on a day like today. We need to act now to save our planet before it’s too late. We only have five years to act – let’s get our shit together.’ He went on to say what students can do to help: ‘Join Extinction Rebellion. Start getting involved. Become interested. Our biggest enemy is apathy. There are no climate deniers in Ireland, that is not a threat. Our biggest threat is students sitting at home and not taking notice of what’s going on. All students need to strike. All students need to come out onto the street, because if we don’t all do it, we won’t change.’
The march reached its finale with several impassioned speeches from student representatives of Fridays for Future Ireland and the Schools Climate Action Network. Secondary students called for action from governments around the world, specifically targeting Leo Varadkar’s government which issued oil exploration licences after declaring a Climate Emergency in Ireland. A minute’s silence was observed 11 minutes before 2pm, to signify the 11 years to save the climate. This silence was heard to the sound of thousands of mobile phone alarms set to go off at the same time. At the close of the event it was revealed that the electrics were powered via solar power.
While this event may not have turned the tide on the war against climate change, it certainly demonstrates the hunger that students have to save the planet before it’s too late. It seems the youth of today won’t be silenced until substantive action happens on the part of the government.
Conor Capplis – Editor