Students lying down en masse on King's ParadeTom Dorrington

At midday, King’s Parade was awash with a sea of blue-clad schoolchildren protesting rising sea levels and flooding as a result of climate change.

The bells of Great St Mary’s church signalled the start of the lie-in, prompting protestors to lie on the ground for a total of eleven minutes, creating a visual representation of a flood.

Organised by Cambridge Schools Eco-Council, the protest was part of the third consecutive monthly UK-wide strikes by school children, coordinated by environmental advocacy group YouthStrike4Climate. Similar protests have been taking place around the world. The last protest on Tuesday 15th March saw an estimated 1.4 million people taking part, with students walking out of schools in 2,233 cities and towns in 128 countries.

The global strikes were prompted by the activism of Greta Thunberg, a sixteen year old Swedish student who has spent every Friday since last August camped outside Swedish parliament in protest of climate change. UK schoolchildren are calling for a general mobilisation during the next Global Strike for Future on the 24th of May.

UK schoolchildren are calling for a general mobilisation during the next Global Strike for Future on the 24th of MayTom Dorrington

The protest began at 9:30am at Shire Hall where students were joined by Rowan Williams, former archbishop of Canterbury and Master of Magdalene College, for a teach-in on climate change. Williams said he was “delighted” to be able to support the student protestors, commenting “it’s a great sign of hope that so many of our young people are willing to stand up and be counted on the subject of climate change. This is their world, and our generation has come close to wrecking it. I hope their clear voices will prompt us all to respond to the crisis with greater energy and imagination.”

Following the teach-in, at 11am the protestors marched down Castle Hill and Trinity Parade before arriving at King’s Parade. Protestors gave speeches, demanding that local authorities and government declare a climate emergency. The students promised to continue the Youth Strikes until their demands are acted on, and called on the public to join the next 24th of May Global Strike for Future.

Thee ‘lie-in’ was intended to represent the findings of the recent IPCC report which stressed that we have just eleven years left at current emission levels before global temperatures rise about the recommended 1.5°C. One protestor, 12 year old Ella Hone of Chesterton Community College said the visual representation of a flood was “a really interesting way of showing people what’s going to happen in our future.”


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The protest took the theme of flooding and sea level rise just a month after Cyclone Idai swept through Mozambique and Zimbabwe. A UN official said the cyclone may prove to be one of the worst weather-related disasters ever in the Southern Hemisphere. The student protesters today stressed that those least responsible for climate change are suffering the most from it, with communities in the Global South already being disportionately impacted today.

Jona David, a thirteen year old student at King’s School and the UN Child Author of The Cosmic Climate Invention said: “our message is simple – the risks are real. Climate change will cost us everything. Children all over the world are already living these impacts [of floods] – it’s unjust and irresponsible. We don’t feel that our decision-makers truly understand, so we’re using street theatre – our own bodies – to tell the world.”

Speaking of the potential impact of flooding to Cambridge, Jona told Varsity that “Cambridge is our home – a brilliant, global university and city in a vulnerable wetland fen. If we can’t change our ways in time, we’ll lose everything to the floods that will come.”

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