Like so many other Bristolians, I was really excited to hear the news last weekend that Greta Thunberg has chosen to come to speak in Bristol.
Our city has led the way in declaring both a climate and ecological emergency and putting the environment at the heart of our plans for the future and we are proud to listen to our young people through the Youth Council and the work of the Bristol Children’s Charter.
Greta’s commitment, resilience and passion for making climate change pivotal to global political discussion can only be admired. Her ability to inspire young people has had an impact in my own family; my children’s awareness of the delicate future of our planet can be attributed to her worldwide campaigning.
As my children are primary aged I have been considering all week whether it would be appropriate to take them out of school to hear Greta speak tomorrow. It feels like a once in a lifetime event and opportunity to hear from a young woman who has used her voice so powerfully to change the world.
However, the statement released by Avon & Somerset Police and Bristol City Council has led me to reconsider. The main concern for tomorrow has to be the safety of children, and, as a parent I respect the concerns that the police have in terms of safety, especially of primary aged children.
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The nature of the youth school strikes is organic and as such it is really difficult for a city to plan for crowd sizes, transport implications and moving people around. We simply do not know how many people are planning to come to Bristol or the exact plans of the organisers.
Bristol is a city with a long history of protest, and we are rightly proud of this and everyone who wants to take part tomorrow should be able to do so proudly and safely.
For those families who decide not to come to College Green tomorrow, I know that many schools are planning to do extra activities during the school day – I’ve pulled together some of these for inspiration!
- Encourage all students to walk or cycle to school
- Host a class litter picking competition in your local area
- Ban the plastic with a plastic free day (including no plastic school chairs!)
- Make some placards out of recycled materials to wave outside the school gates
- Come up with a student climate plan for the year ahead with pledges everyone can sign up to which will reduce their carbon footprint.
In January 2020, the mayor and I hosted ten schools and their eco-groups. We discussed how we can make our schools greener, how we can work together as a city and built eco-bricks. We also had a fascinating discussion in the council chamber on school strikes.
Everyone agreed that they had had a positive impact on the climate change agenda and the children all concluded that along with protest there must be real action.
Bristol’s fight to save the planet will continue long after Greta leaves Bristol tomorrow, but her words and inspiration will stay with us as we work together across all ages.
Helen Godwin is cabinet member for Women, Children and Families. This opinion piece was originally published on www.thebristolmayor.com
Main photo by Ellie Pipe