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Friday the 15th of February saw thousands of kids across the UK and Europe skip school in a strategic attempt to gain government attention over climate change. From all corners of Britain, kids marched across towns and cities and rallied in front of parliament in effort to gain control over their future.
At the core of this passionate movement is 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, a Swedish activist, who has single-handedly set in motion what looks to be one of the largest youth protests yet. She began last year by sitting outside Swedish parliament and refusing to attend school until their general election in hopes of bringing attention to the country’s environmental problems. Thunberg received backlash from both her parents and school but defended herself saying “I am doing this because nobody else is doing anything. It is my moral responsibility to do what I can.”
The UK Student Climate Network, which helped organised some of the biggest protests across the UK inspired by Thunberg, has four key demands for parliament to meet.
- The government should declare a “climate emergency”
- It should also inform the public about the seriousness of the situation
- The national curriculum should be reformed to include “the ecological crisis”
- The age of voting should be lowered to 16 so younger people can be involved in decision-making around environmental issues.
With climate issues such as melting glaciers, rising temperatures and increasing sea levels becoming more apparent, it easy to see where the frustration in the younger generation lies. The lack of action from governments over the past decades has allowed for inefficient and unenforced climate laws resulting in worsening conditions.
Last summer many places around the globe broke temperature records including the UK, Sweden, USA. Last Friday’s strikes could be a pioneering moment in the push back against such issues, as school kids risk their education for the environment.
The strike was met with a spectrum of responses from teachers, politicians and educational leaders across the UK. One of the most prominent voices among them was a spokesperson for the British Prime Minster, Theresa May, who criticised the movement for its disruption to education and lesson time. They argued that it was more crucial than ever for children to be in school to produce professionals that can help tackle the global crisis. In agreement with Mrs May, The National Association of Head Teachers said that children’s education comes first and supporting the movement did not excuse missing school.
In contrast, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn took to Twitter in support of the strike, describing the children involved as inspiring and ensuring the public that his party took the issues ‘as seriously as our young people.’
Tom Harwood, known for his work as a reporter for Guido Fawkes, said ‘kids having a fun excuse to skip school and say rude words doth not make a serious political statement.’
Angela Rayner, Labour MP, said ‘I’m inspired by the many young people who want to support the #schoolstrike4climate movement but I hope it can evolve so we can build on its success without the loss of time in the classroom. World leaders including our PM must listen & act.’
The hashtag went viral and began to trend on Friday, inviting a global online conversation. It clearly struck a heartstring with many users, as they were quick to defend the protestors. It was made prominent that some schools had even supported their pupils and parents in refraining from punishing those who had written consent from guardians to join in.
The wave of negative comments, especially those from parliament members, seems perplexing for many online. The argument against skipping class for fear of loss of lessons seemed ironic as children have taken it upon themselves to do the teaching. Their practise of peaceful protest, organised collectivism and public demand for change is the very essence of democracy that Britain has so proudly build itself on. Their very participation in this movement shows learning and understand of citizen values that seem to be lost within the current curriculum, so much so that these lessons must be learnt outside of school.
The fact that many protestors are school children seem to be a detail that condemners have clung to in aid of their argument that ‘they just want to skip school.’ It seems to be overlooked that their place as a pupil is what’s so astounding about this strike. Children who have yet to have jobs, independence or real responsibility are more conscious and passionate about the state of their planet than those who are paid to do so.
It is inspiring to see such courageous, young people come together to stand for their beliefs. But it forebodes a sad future when those elected to lead and govern us have so clearly fallen short that children must take the responsibility of the planet onto their shoulders.
Molly Russell is a columnist at TPN and studies at the University of Liverpool
The Conservatives new plan to tighten immigration laws could have exponential backlash on the UK economy, with welfare, hospitality and construction sectors being hit the hardest. The new guidelines set out to scrap the limit on foreign workers and replace it with a skill-based system, with a £30,000 salary threshold for workers. The new law would see the removal of any special treatment for EU immigrants and focus solely on worker’s skill set for labour.
The proposed law is meant to decrease the number of migrants coming to the U.K. Anti-immigration rhetoric associates said migrants with cheap labour and with driving down wages, with little or no regard for the lack of political impetus to stimulate wage growth. Nevertheless, the impacts on crucial work sectors in the UK seems to have bypassed the minds of the Conservatives as they set their aims on lower immigration figures to appease the racist’s in their parties and surrender economic growth in attempt to achieve it.
A salary threshold of £30,000 would rule out the possibility of foreign worker’s in a number of roles in vital sectors of the market, this knock-on effect could see
City Hall has released figures on foreign employees earning less than the projected threshold that would be eliminated from these roles if the law came into play. An estimated 46,000 construction and 61,000 hospitality positions are held by EEA workers a year, along with 20,276 nurses and health advisors from the NHS. The short and long term effects on the economy if the Conservatives force this sheer drop in labour, particularly in regard to already struggling sectors, could lunge the UK into crisis.
This is a cynical attempt on the Tories part to bring further marketisation into sectors where previous attempts have failed. By introducing such a system, the private sector would be circling like sharks to gain Health contracts at the NHS’s expense. Where labour shortages exist, services would be outsourced, a deeply flawed plan, driven by ideology and bitter contempt for the welfare state.
Many public bodies have spoken out against the government’s plans and raised concerns that the threshold needs to be scrapped or readjusted to better fit the British market. Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has discussed fears for the capital due to its dependency on low-wage foreign workers and the consequences the new law could have on London’s economy and the already suffering public services.
The chairman of the FSS (Federation of Small Businesses) Mike Cherry disclosed worries on the potential impact on small businesses due 70% of their workforce being reliant on low-skilled workers. The high volume of labours that would be removed from these positions could see many small businesses not only begin to fail but collapse altogether having a further negative impact on the market.
The newly proposed law put forward by the government ignores the fact foreign workers are an integral pillar in supporting the British economy, it fails to take into account the detrimental impact it could have on corporations and small businesses nationwide.
The latest strike for Brexit comes from one of their very own proclaiming he “hadn’t quite understood” how reliant UK trade in goods is on the Dover-Calais crossing.
Dominic Raab, the Brexit’s Secretary, made the remark this week at a conference discussing potential impacts of Brexit on trade routes. As Mr Raab’s speech continued he failed to evoke any more confidence in promise of a Brexit deal, following up with: “I don’t think it’s a question so much of the risk of major shortages but I think probably the average consumer might not be aware of the full extent to which the choice of goods that we have in the stores are dependent on one or two very specific trade routes.”
The incompetence of the Conservative governments is, in my opinion, perfectly exemplified in these two comments. Firstly, the lack of knowledge and coordination across the entire Conservative party doomed Brexit before it had even begun.
If MPs and secretaries lack the basic understanding in their fields, which they are paid to know, how can we place responsibility of the future of the UK in their hands. Secondly, as Mr Raab’s comment indicates “the average consumer” does not know the intricate factors of the British market and economy. The fact the British public was given the vote, to what arguably could be the defining moment in Britain’s nosedive, when even professionals seem to have little to no idea what Brexit could really mean for the future of the UK is idiotic.
The inconsistent attitude of the government has left Britain in a state of panic and uncertainty. Giving the public all the power via the referendum and then seizing it back to discreetly negotiate what type of deal, (if any) reflects poorly on Theresa May and her party’s ability to do their jobs.
We employ our government to make decision on our behalf yet they rarely seem to reflect the best interest of our country. With Brexit being the pinnacle of this behaviour, it is difficult to see any situation that involves a win-win scenario. As Robert Shrimsley wrote: “The Tories are caught in a trap – one from which there is no escape, even with a change of leader. They either deliver and own a hard Brexit with all its attendant consequences or they produce a workable outcome which Brexiteers proclaim has betrayed the cause.”
In truth, the resemblance between the behaviour of the Tories and a bickering group of nursery children is ironic. No-one seems to have a genuine grasp of the issues at stake, and no-one is taking the time to really talk it out like professionals.
Brexit has become a shouting match where arrogance and stubbornness pave the way. With a party consisting of hard and soft-Brexiteers with such polar opposite goals for the UK, it seems there is no space for reasonable or successful debate, when the government as a whole cannot feasibly agree to align their goals.
While many UK businessmen have spoken about their worries over the impact of Brexit on the economy, some have been strong supporters from the start. James Dyson, Tim Martin and Anthony Bamford to name a few, have not only supported but actively tried to engage people to vote for Brexit, pre-referendum. Each having their own reason to do so from ‘the benefits from setting our own trade policy’ to ‘the ability to alter tariff barriers on imports’, however one thing is inarguable – they all want a stronger more independent Britain.
As businessmen and some of the wealthiest people in UK, their opinion and economic influence is not taken lightly by the public or the government. People like James Dyson and Anthony Bamford have had more than just a successful career or lucrative business, they have the ability to make real impacts within the British economy. Their investments, factory placement and employability could be argued to be the pillars on which the UK market stands. However, could they do more?
In recent weeks it has made news that James Dyson will build his new car plant in Asia, as none of Dyson products are produced here in the UK this is not a shock, but is it a kick in the teeth? Dyson argued the reason for this decision was purely based on non-financial contributors, including Brexit. For many other major manufacturing companies, who produce in the UK, Brexit poses a direct threat to them. Unstable deals and the lack of confidence in the UK has already had major impacts on some business’, with owners pressuring the Conservatives to get the job done and done right.
These insecure times have had no impression on Dyson however, as all of its manufacturing bases are outside of the UK. This calls into question his bearing on the matter of Brexit, and how fair it was to become such a strong advocate for something when little to none of its potentially disastrous negative consequences affect you.
Contradictory to his views of wanting a stronger and more power Britain, James Dyson seems to lack the genuine intentions to contribute to this. Not to remove credit for the company’s positive impact on the British economy, Dyson has tripled its UK workforce over the past five years and invested £200m into the UK for research. However, this is dwarfed by the incalculable impact Dyson could have on Britain if it started manufacturing here. Employability opportunities, ripple effects on the market and educational benefits to say a few. The truth is that if James Dyson and similar capitalists truly wanted a better Britain they would be doing more in their power to make it happen.
The key issue between Brexit and businessmen lies here: Brexit is not yet defined properly. For few Brexit is a new opportunity to re-shape Britain, for some it is a risky task that requires perseverance and for most it is a government illusion they must just try to survive through.
The UK government has been under pressure in recent years, to push for more ambitious targets regarding its policy on cars, with the aim of having a ‘zero emissions’ from cars by 2040, pushed forward by at least seven years. With there being increasing calls in order to get diesel and petrol cars off the road in hopes of drastically reducing the nations carbon footprint, the government seem to be ambivalent towards other environmental projects that could aid or damage this goal.
The diesel and petrol ban in itself has raised questions on how plausible it is as present. The massive push would not only change our environmental impact but alter driving culture as we know it, calls for a nationwide increase in charging points could possibly raise issues with power demand and supply. Many have called the government out for making the plan ‘obscure’ and some have said that it is simply not enough. The UK governments attitude towards this policy is problematic, it lacks enthusiasm, commitment and desire in order to truly pursue a Green future for the UK.
Over the past year tax on older and ‘dirtier’ cars has risen, however in the last week subsidies for new hybrid cars have just been cut. The Tory’s are enjoying swinging their legs on both sides of the proverbial fence. While happy to penalise those with more polluting cars, they’re providing less incentive to reward those who switch. It is also worth noting that local councils may soon be handed the right to charge or ban drivers on specific roads. While this is a step further into creating cleaner air zones, nobody seems to be thinking of the impact this could have on the average taxpayer.
Owners of older and environmentally-unfriendly cars are most likely to be those on benefits, lower incomes and students. These people are now not only paying more tax on their cars but could be struck with charges on roads or bans all together, which arguably lessens their ability to save for an electric car, for which the incentive has just be reduced.
Looking back at the governments ‘track record’ on recent environmental affairs, Theresa May has had a questionable approach when it comes to going green. Earlier this year the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon project was scrapped due to it not being ‘value for money’ despite being largely private funded, backed by the regional Welsh government and being revised to produce a cheaper cost. The bay was estimated to provide power for 11% of Wales’ energy consumption while saving 236,000 tonnes of carbon per year. Around the time this decision was made the government also decided to confirm Heathrow’s expansion for a third runway.
With the Heathrow expansion estimated to cost £14 billion, not including government plans to provide soundproofing to local residential areas, this dwarfs the estimated tidal bay cost of around £1.3 billion. Here lies the problem. The government clearly views one as a bill and one as an investment. Heathrow shows a clear ability to produce payment and profits for the UK, on the other hand, the tidal bay is not so quantifiable. A recent Government report said that building a third runway would undoubtedly mean that the UK misses its environmental targets that we signed up for at the Paris Climate Accord.
The UK has a clear destination in terms of environmental goals but seems to lack the means to get there directly. Relying on vague and difficult plans such as banning diesel and petrol cars, is evidently not enough- especially when plans with tremendous impact are being scrapped due to their lack of ‘value.’