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Monday, 14 October 2019
HUNDREDS of children in Henley and Caversham took part in the international climate strike.
They were protesting. together with millions of others around the world, about the threat of climate change before the issue was discussed at a United Nations summit in New York.
Friday’s protest in Henley started outside the town hall at noon and lasted an hour.
Parents and teachers joined the children, most of whom came from St Mary’s School, Sacred Heart Primary School, Gillotts School, Robert Piggott Infant School in Wargrave and Peppard Primary School.
The children waved banners and placards and chanted: “Climate change is not a lie, do not let our planet die.”
The action was inspired by teenage environmental activist Greta Thunberg, who staged the first school climate strike outside the Swedish parliament in August last year.
Max Claridge, nine, a pupil at Peppard primary, said it was important that children made their voices heard.
He said: “Eventually people might not be able to live here so it’s important that we look after the planet as best we can.”
Fellow pupil Izzy Swanwick, 10, said: “This is our future and we have got to do something about it. Governments have got to stop wasting time and get on with it.”
Grace Gubbins, 11, from Sacred Heart primary, said: “I think it’s really good to take part because we are supporting a good cause and we are trying to stop bad things happening. We are protecting our planet from climate change.
“I’m worried about the fires in the Amazon but there are just as many fires in Africa. They’re as bad but because we live here, really far from them, we don’t really pay any attention.”
Fellow pupil Annie McDowall, eight, said: “I really love animals and I’m worried about them.”
Tabitha Fannan, 17, of Gainsborough Hill, Henley, urged people to become vegans.
She said: “Everyone here today is fighting for the environment and everyone is making their own changes but if we are going to stop this climate crisis we need to have more plant-based options. That’s what is going to help support the environment.” The Oxfam book shop in Duke Street closed in support of the strike together with the charity’s other shops nationwide.
Manager Sabina Adams said: “We have closed to put pressure on the UN conference on climate change. I just want to raise awareness and by closing here in Henley we can show how important this issue is.
“It’s great just to see children being involved and obviously that’s how it started. More needs to be done and more quickly.”
Town councillor Donna Crook, who is a member of Greener Henley, was at the protest with Jo Robb, who represents the Woodcote and Rotherfield ward for the Green Party on South Oxfordshire District Council.
Concillor Crook said: “When you change your mindset then it becomes easier to become greener.”
Councillor Robb said that hearing Greta speak prompted her to join the Greens.
She said: “It made me realise how little I knew about this crisis. I was shocked and I have supported my two children going on climate strikes in Pangbourne where they go to school.
“There are a number of changes we can make. When you shop at your local supermarket look for products that are not covered in plastic. Shop locally and use cars less — consider car pooling.
“We really need to reduce our consumption. However, we are asking government to take the sort of steps that only government can take. There’s only so much that individuals can do.
“The fact that so many people from Extinction Rebellion are willing to get arrested shows that people realise how serious this is.”
Rob Harmer, headteacher of St Mary’s School, wanted to ensure his pupils were at the protest.
He said: “It’s their future and I think it’s only right that schools should support this and allow the children to come and have their say.”
Organiser Julia Samyui-Adams said: “People have been really, really supportive. They had a lot of different reasons for coming. The main one was about supporting the children and showing care for their future.
“It really shows the level of concern that everybody has about climate change.
“We want action and we want it taken quickly. Governments have to stop funding overseas projects that are going in the wrong direction. The children need to see that adults are doing more.
“In my heart I am here for my daughter and to be able to say I did everything I could but the main thing is raising awareness and creating conversations.
“I would like to say a massive thank-you to everyone who turned up. It sent a really positive message.”
Students at Gillotts held their own silent protest at the school at lunchtime on Friday. They had made their own banners and marched around the school, gathering support.
The protest in Caversham took place at 2pm and lasted half an hour.
Pupils from the Heights, Thameside and St Anne’s primary schools waved placards and chanted in Westfield Park and Christchurch Meadows.
Phoebe Bentley, 10, from the Heights primary, said: “I’m really pleased the school has organised this and I’m absolutely amazed at how many people came out, not just in England but also other countries.
“I think we are really going to prove that anyone can make a change and we should all stick together.
“I want us to start by making small changes like planting trees, which help the Earth in many different ways. I also want us to use less plastic.”
Hollie Mackin, seven, from Thameside primary, said: “We want to say that the more we use electricity the warmer the world will become and that makes the Arctic melt. Polar bears fall off the ice and drown.”
Janai Thorpe, nine, from St Anne’s primary, said: “I’m taking part because I care about animals and want people to stop littering.”
Fellow pupil Richie Badu, 10, said: “We’ve got to stop littering and stop climate change. It’s bad for animals and humans and animals are becoming extinct because of it.”
Sarah Bernto, headteacher at St Anne’s, said: “We are here to educate the children but if we do not leave them a world to live in then there’s not much point in education. We want to teach children that protest has power.”
30 September 2019
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