Youth call out climate change

Photo courtesy Asha-Mae Chapman Ralph
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Young Australian activists helped make action on climate change a Federal election issue despite not being eligible to vote. Johanna Haglund reports.

Asha-Mae Chapman Ralph became politically engaged when she realised the drought that affected her parents’ farm for two years was a direct consequence of climate change.

“I think it [climate change] is something everyone should be concerned about, because everyone is going to see what happens and feel the ramifications of climate change in their own way,” says the 17-year old student at Princes Hill Secondary College in Carlton.

Miss Chapman Ralph was among young Australians active in the organisation School Strike 4 Climate Change in the leadup to the recent Federal election in which climate change was expected to be among the most pressing issues.

”It wouldn’t be a ’climate change election’ if it wasn’t for us kids being vocal about it,” she says.

School Strike 4 Climate Change organised demonstrations called ‘Fridays for Future’ outside local government buildings, following a call from Swedish student Greta Thunberg.

Miss Chapman Ralph says that she was overwhelmed by the number of people and support shown at a recent demonstration.

“The amount of people that … came out of their office buildings, and were filming, and were kind of cheering us on (…) was really unexpected.”

An estimated 20.000 people joined the school strike in Melbourne on March 15.

“I climbed on a traffic light, and I was looking down Spring street, and looked all the way down to the left and you couldn’t see the end of the street for people,” she says.

Though many student activists were too young to vote, Miss Chapman Ralph believed people would listen to their call for action despite their age.

“I think not being able to vote gives us a different kind of power. Because I think it’s even more persuasive to say ‘I can’t vote, I can’t make a choice, but I am concerned’,” she says.

One organisation that has been inspired by Miss Chapman Ralph and her organisation’s work is Women’s Climate Justice Collective (WCJC) – a separatist group for the climate.

“Pretty much all of the amazing speakers lately … have been young girls, haven’t they? My God, they’ve made such an impact! So young, and they’ve found their space and their voice,” Kate Gracey of WCJC says.