Posted: 20 September 2019

Voices on Waterloo Bridge: young people share their thoughts on the climate change protests

Jade (above) arrived at the climate strikes to help arrestees. She involved herself in the campaign to ‘create social change and know that we can make a difference’.

During a week of protests about climate change, we went to Waterloo Bridge to talk to some of the young people who are calling on the government to address this ecological crisis.

'We are the ones making a difference’

Walking from Kings Cross to Waterloo on an unusually hot April afternoon, it was strange to think that a few pockets of London were deep into their fourth day of rebellion. People from all over the country had been gathering on major sites across the capital to raise awareness of the current climate emergency. 

At the centre of this call for action is the 16 year-old Greta Thunberg who walked out of school to sit outside Swedish parliament in the name of climate change. She has inspired a mass movement of young people to call for adult decision-makers to wake up, tell the truth and act on climate change. I was on my way to Garden Bridge to ask the young people why the Extinction Rebellion campaign was important to them. 

‘We will never stop fighting for this planet, for ourselves, our futures and for the futures of our children and grandchildren’ - Greta, 16

As I arrived on the bridge, a young man was addressing the crowd by a makeshift stage at the south side. When he'd finished, I went over to talk to him and ask what his hopes were for the future. 

Ollie, 21 (Brighton)

Young person Ollie at climate change protest

'Climate change is happening now, it’s happening in this present moment, so we’re not focussing on the future, we’re focussing on the now. If we’re focussing on the future, I don’t think we would be here. I feel as though it’s important to remain present when thinking about the future - the future is going to be quite disruptive - how that pans out I don’t know but we’ll see.'

We can make decisions on climate change

As we were talking, Amos came and sat down beside Ollie. He’d come down from Cornwall and was looking after the church at the end of the bridge. He’d been there since Sunday night, offering people places to sleep or keep their belongings safe. When asked about why he was here, he said:

'Because I do think human beings can make decisions and I think the system we’ve ended up living in doesn’t let you make decisions and the choices you can make are quite arbitrary…I’m going to criticise and try and discover something which we do not have the answers for yet…I don’t think politicians will be able to credit this movement but I think they won’t be able to ignore it.'

Bea, 19 and Luke, 18 (London)

Young people at climate change protest

Bea and Luke had only met five minutes prior to me talking to them, but I felt like I was interrupting a long-overdue catch up. Everyone here is so open and up for talking. The day before, Luke had been handing out ‘sorry for the inconvenience’ flyers to passers-by and Bea had been coming down every day since Monday. 

When asked why the campaign is important, Bea says, ‘I just think its a really worthwhile cause and I think anyone who could be here, should be - you can’t really say it’s not something worth protesting because it’s so obvious.

'The world's just gonna burn pretty soon'

I think it’s also just nice to feel like finally you can do something about something which everyone’s just felt very hopeless about for a long time. Or helpless - I felt like obviously the world’s just gonna burn pretty soon  - and now it’s like maybe we can actually do something.' 

Luke adds, 'And I think it’s a really urgent thing…you sort of have to create an inconvenience…how else are you going to create a voice when no one else will do it.'

Then I asked if they thought politicians would take notice. ‘I don’t see how they couldn’t’ Luke says. Bea agrees, ‘I think politicians are human as well and most of them, or a lot of them will agree with the cause so it’s more about how to do something’.

Finally, when asked about the future, they both seem positive but grounded. Luke hopes people start to take action. 'I don’t think there’ll be a dramatic overhaul of the system but hopefully this will be in the back of their mind'. 

‘I hope it will do something - at least get more people feeling like they can do something’ - Bea, 19

It's clear that so many young people on this bridge and elsewhere across the country have a lot to say about the climate and the world we live in. The children's climate marches, the XR youth movement and Greta Thunberg are proof that we need to listen more to young voices - not just when it concerns the environment but in every area of society. 

Learn more about the issues young people are talking about and visit our Good Childhood hub.

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