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Like many of the students who make up the School Strike 4 Climate movement, I’ve always cared about the environment. 

It’s like second nature: just as I cannot stand by and watch people be hurt, neither can I stand by and watch the Earth be destroyed by human activity. Climate change combines the two. 

A while ago, nothing I did to try and help the environment ever seemed to matter. Sure, I could change my own lifestyle to lower my individual impact, but that alone wouldn’t make a dent in the massive global problem we are facing. Now I know that we need system change.  

When I first banded together a group of like-minded people in February to try and pull together a School Strike 4 Climate on March 15th, the first global strike day New Zealand was participating in, I thought it would be a one-off. I thought we would go out there, make our voices heard, but like many other things youth did, politicians wouldn’t really take our demands on board. I was wrong about both those things. The School Strike 4 Climate movement is one of the biggest influencers of climate change politics, let alone the biggest youth movement New Zealand has seen. And it has completely taken over my life. 

A second global School Strike 4 Climate was scheduled for May 24th. In Gisborne, we held a beach clean-up and rally at Waikanae. We now have a strong group of climate activists – we call ourselves Tairawhiti Environment Youth. Our movement for climate action has grown a lot since March. We are currently running a petition to the Gisborne District Council, asking them to declare a climate emergency. 

The climate crisis is nothing short of an emergency – the science shows it, and we, as youth staring down the barrel of a future darkened by catastrophic climate change, know it. It is time for the GDC to acknowledge the emergency we are in and act accordingly by declaring a climate emergency. 

Although some people haven’t been so pleased we’ve stepped up for the world we want to live in, we have been lucky to have strong support from Tairawhiti. You may have seen us gathering signatures for our petition at the Farmers Market a few weeks ago.

Tairawhiti is not immune to the effects of climate change. Consequences will hit us as strongly as the rest of the world. Every part of our community will be affected: our homes, our food, our jobs, our economy, our environment. Everything we value about Gisborne, from beaches to wineries, will be seriously affected by climate change. We could lose so, so much. The effects are already in motion – with each month that passes, heat records are broken and weather fluctuates. Places and people all over the world will be hurt: from homes in the Pacific to the cities of Europe. The most vulnerable in our society will be hit by the hardest. 

We need to do all we can to mitigate these effects by limiting warming to below 1.5 degrees. A future torn by the effects of climate change is not one that we want to have.

Which is why we, along with people all over New Zealand and the world, will be striking for the climate on September 27th. It will be our third time striking from school for climate action and raising our voices about inaction in our community. We will not be quiet until we see working action on climate change. Until then, we will continue fighting, and we hope we can inspire others to do the same. 

On September 27th, we are striking for climate action. We will be marching down Gladstone road and holding a sit-in outside the Gisborne District Council, where we will hear from inspirational student speakers, write messages to our MP’s, and make our demands clear. We cannot hesitate any longer. To me, this crisis is so much bigger than politics. This crisis is a worldwide emergency. And that means that everywhere needs to act, including Tairawhiti. Our systems have been continuously damaging our planet and our people, and we cannot let it go on any longer. The GDC has a unique opportunity to take the lead on climate change action in local Government. We are making it clear we need change: we need leadership to safeguard our futures. 

On September 27th, we want you, Gisborne locals, to join us. Maybe it’s because you go camping up the coast every summer at beaches that could be lost to sea-level rise. Maybe it’s because you, like us, know the time for action has long since started. Maybe it’s because you could not bear our region to suffer destructive climate change effects, from increased and severe floods and droughts to cyclones hitting the east coast with intense force. Maybe it’s because Pacific peoples are already losing their homes and lands to sea-level rise. Or maybe it’s because you have a son, a daughter, a niece, a nephew, a grandchild, a young person you care about, and you want their future to be one of a world that is thriving, rather than dying.

Whatever your reason is: join us on September 27th. Bring everyone you know. This Climate Strike will be the biggest Tairawhiti has ever seen, because we care about this land, this country, this planet, and the people on it. We will not back down. 

You can find the petition to the GDC online at Action Station, here: https://our.actionstation.org.nz/petitions/gdc-declare-a-climate-emergency

Find the Facebook event for September 27th’s Strike 4 Climate here: https://www.facebook.com/events/746467675785443/

By Maia Ingoe.

Maia Ingoe is a 17 year old Gisborne Girls’ High School student and one of the co-ordinators of the School Strike 4 Climate movement in Gisborne. Her writing has been featured in various publications and competitions and recently she completed her tenure as a Youth Press Gallery member. She has grown up in Tairawhiti and (in summer) heads to the beach whenever she can. Maia wants to work to create the kind of future that her generation want to have: one that is not ravaged by climate change. People and the planet are her priority, and she hopes to carry that into her future work, whatever that may be.

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