Claire Harris

I Hope Today’s Climate Change Demonstrations Are Heard, and I Hope to See You There

In my generation, we’ve had demonstrations against the Iraq War, Wall Street, and against marriage inequality, but today’s climate change protests will stand alone. 

 

I have spent almost two decades protesting for the causes I care most about. In all of these years, perhaps only three demonstrations actually felt like a seismic shift was taking place — and that we were part of a massive social upheaval that would turn the world in a more positive direction.

In 2003, there was mass mobilization to stop the United States from invading Iraq — the largest global peace protest since the Vietnam War era. On a single day in March, some millions of people protested around the world, including over 200,000 in my hometown of Sydney.

I was 19 years old and felt inspired by the numbers —with so many of us against the invasion, there was no way that we could be ignored. As we know, the disastrous and brutal Iraq War went ahead anyway and has never really ended. We were ignored.

I had recently moved to New York when I was accidentally caught up in the early Occupy Wall Street protests. Held against a wall by police for simply being an onlooker, I was terrified of losing my visa status as I watched protesters rounded up and handcuffed on the other side of the street.

But by the next demonstration, Occupy had become mainstream — attracting thousands of people from all demographics in a display of collective rage against systemic inequalities. I was 27 years old, and I was sure that 2011 would go down as a change-making year in history, one that started with the Arab Spring and reverberated around the world. But, as we know, the Occupy movement petered out with no real agenda achieved.

And then two years ago, tens of thousands of people in my new city of Melbourne rallied in favor of marriage equality — and this time, we won (albeit only after a cruel referendum). When same-sex marriage was legalized in 2017, I felt hopeful in a way that I haven’t since before the Iraq War protests. With so many of us, we cannot be ignored.

This is not a piece about the climate emergency — because if you are reading this, I assume you know that it is real and it is already happening. It is not even a piece in admiration of the grit and determination of the young people who are leading the fight for climate action.

It is a piece about hope.

I asked my mother recently if the world has always felt as catastrophic as it does today. She spoke about the civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1960s, which she participated in. Then she said the difference between then and now was that there seemed to be much more hope — a sense that things really could change for the better.

In the 1960s, my mother was around the same age as I was when I believed that millions of people demonstrating against war could stop it from happening — not much older than today’s students. It’s easy to lose hope as you get older and you take part in demonstration after demonstration that doesn’t seem to change anything.

It is crucial that the student leaders of this movement do not lose hope. We have created the chaos that will define the world they live in as adults — the least we can do is answer their call for support. We need to show up today and give them hope. And we need them to reignite our own hope. The future of the planet depends on it.

 

 

Claire Harris

Claire Harris is a writer in exile who has spent the last decade traveling and working around the world. This is not nearly as glamorous as it sounds and usually involves scraping by on a diet of muesli and cheap wine. Occasionally together.

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