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Does protest still work?

September 20th, 2019 was a  day I will remember. It started while I waited for a train to take me from Caboolture Station into Brisbane for the world-wide Climate Emergency protest led by high school students. I decided to join them because I believe we oldies need to give them support. They are so fearful of the future that we are leaving to them. 

On the station I saw other older people wearing protesting t-shirts.  During the train trip one woman came to sit with me so we got to know each other. I already felt among friends.

In Brisbane I bought The Big Issue and had a very enjoyable conversation with the seller. One thing he said sticks in my mind, ‘I used to like listening to a long-time ‘identity’ on radio until he said he’d be dead before climate change happened, so he wasn’t concerned.’ Or words to that effect.  

The magazine’s theme was a question: Does protest still work? There were such good articles in it that I wanted to buy enough copies to give to all the young adults in my life.

When I reached the Queens Gardens there were already so many there that I wondered how more could squeeze into that space. 

It is significant that 30-40 thousand people protested in Brisbane that day- not as many as Melbourne, but big for a city the size of Brizzy.

There will be more protests. I hope today’s young activists can manage to retain their motivation and hope. Life for them is hard. Getting jobs, finding affordable accommodation—with little hope of buying a house—and mental health challenges are realities for many. 

Despite the urgency to the protest’s message and despite the seriousness, I did have a gratifying day. Why? Because I saw so many young people holding placards with messages that can’t be ignored, and who are genuinely passionate about what they are telling us. What I saw was the opposite to complacency. I also released that many of the protesters were older people like myself and that there was a feeling of unity between the age groups. Some young parents had babies and toddlers with them. I was encouraged by their presence. It wasn’t hard to guess their reason for being there.

I thought of other cities and towns in Australia where people gathered to shout their message of concern to the world. And in other countries. It was estimated that world-wide 7.6 million people took to the streets the day.  

I had the feeling that we all belonged to one family- a family of several generations. This became even more evident when I foolishly used my phone to take a video. I tripped on a kerb and fell face down. A crowd surrounded me. “Don’t worry, we’ll look after you, ” said one after another. Which they did. 

The compassion of those strangers towards me gave me reassurance that humans care for each other. It was a friendly, sensible crowd with a common purpose to make our politicians and everyone else listen to what science is telling us. take scientists’ warnings and predictions to heart and act upon them. Our world and the inhabitants it hosts are precious.

They must be saved.

- OR -

We can’t let it die.

- OR -

Are we really foolish enough to risk destroying it?

PS This is my last column for the time being. I hope readers have enjoyed my monthly stories over the past twelve months.

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