It was the time of day when the bus shouldn’t have been full of school students. Yet, there they were. Most still in school uniform, two boys in tutus, girls with fighter face-paint across their cheek bones, and other students clutching ‘climate’ signs. We were all heading to the same place – Cathedral Square. Not that there is much of a cathedral there anymore, but there’s still a great big space perfect for rabble-rousing.
And I made a new young friend. We met at the bus stop, and it took all of three seconds to establish we were off to the same place. Our own signs, even held discreetly, kinda gave it away. Even the age-gap chasm between us was no barrier to the happy-chat we all embark on when we find a kindred vegan spirit. We decided to buddy up, seeing as the buddy she was expecting to go with bailed on her at the last moment.
Around 5,000 people gathered in Cathedral Square for this shindig. Not a patch on Wellington’s estimated 40,000 and Auckland’s 80,000 (go you ab-fab Wellingtonians and Aucklanders!), but maybe we’ll do better next time. A crowd of 5,000 still doesn’t look too shabby on the march through the streets, though.
A few minutes after our arrival at The Square, we spotted another vegan sign, so squeezed and snaked our way through the crowd to stand in solidarity. And wouldn’t you know it – they turned out to be some Cube of Truth fellow activists I met just last weekend, when I was at my first Cube event. I introduced my new buddy, and nek minnit, she was indicating that she’d be at the next Cube. I was pretty impressed with my powers of recruitment, which until now had hovered around zero.
It was great to see so many young people fired up. Thanks to Greta, school students are stepping up and demanding that their climate concerns are heard. Today’s climate strike was intergenerational, so there was a big mix of ages. The speeches were passionate, the music the band played was stirring, the chants were loud – but the messages were somewhat vague. The demand to fix the climate breakdown wasn’t vague, but as usual it was all about fossil fuels. Not a peep about the destructive nature of animal agriculture, and how that is munting the planet more than anything else. And how going vegan will mitigate that munting faster than anything else. Nope, that takes away the blame from someone else, and puts it squarely on our own personal doorstep.
However, I don’t want to be too much of a grinch to the school kids. They may yet learn about animal agriculture. At least they’re getting roused about something that we’re all fairly attached to. And the numbers getting roused are impressive. No, a climate strike on its own doesn’t achieve much, but it does tell the politicians that it matters to a lot of people – i.e. voters, and those coming up to be eligible to vote. Ignoring it could well be a very bad political move.
Of course, we have to also honour all those who set the stage for this, who spent years grimly trying to be heard by those who had no interest in hearing it. The tipping point came about in the form of Greta Thunberg, and I reckon it’s not going to quietly die down any time soon. Much of the media is on her side, and that’s a powerful weapon to have.
I learned one more really important thing today – and that it’s much better to have a sign on a stick, than one that has to be held above my head with my arms. You’d think I’d know by now, after the protests I’ve been on in my time, that arms tend to get tired doing that. Oh well, I’ll do better next time – because there will be a next time.