On Valentine’s Day, 150 Durham University students joined local sixth-formers in the national YouthStrikes4Climate.
The protest was organised by Amnesty International in collaboration with ECO DU, and 16 Durham societies co-hosted the event, along with support from college environment committees.
A diverse group of students with varied interests came together for the strikes. One member of Durham University Labour Club said, “We had the Green New Deal which was very well-received and popular.
“Solidarity is at the core of our movement, and this is why climate is so important to us. Regardless of race, gender, or sexuality, it affects everyone.”
Neve Ovenden, former president of the Working Class Association, spoke from the perspective of working class students’ interests. She said, “Climate change will have a catastrophic impact on working class people around the world.”
“To achieve carbon neutrality, we need to change the university structure”
The strikes began outside the Bill Bryson Library, and then marched through town to join school students striking in Market Square.
ECO DU, a group which lobbies the University for better sustainability, released five demands ahead of the strike, as specific changes students want from the University.
A Head Coordinator of ECO DU, Andrea Vismara, told Palatinate “These demands are possible, and to achieve them, we need the university to see that students want change.
“To achieve carbon neutrality, we need to change the university structure, to reduce student and college consumption, adapt staff behaviour and most of all address the culture of the University. I believe that change is possible – but we have to act now”.
School strikes occurred simultaneously in 88 towns and cities across the UK, with the Durham strike being organised by sixth-former Leia and her friends from Durham Johnston school.
“Climate change will have a catastrophic impact on working class people around the world.”
“Many of the schoolchildren gave really great speeches, then after an hour we heard this roaring echo from the distance, and suddenly all these students joined us and the whole energy of the protest was raised a notch higher”, said one local mother.
The protest in Market Square marked the one-year anniversary of school strikes, with the first Durham students gathering in the same location a year previously.
Leia told the crowd, “My dad told me this morning there was no point being here, because everyone knew about the strikes by now, but nothing had happened. I told him that until something happens, that’s exactly why we have to strike”.
“We came here from Bishop Auckland, and it’s been so wonderful to hear so many voices here today. Fighting climate change is slow and can be so wearing, so it’s wonderful to feel inspired by events like this – it was worth the travelling”, said a representative from Bishop Auckland Climate Action Group.
Photograph: Caitlin Kinney