COMMENT:

As the saying goes, "if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything". It's a lesson we often teach our young people, in one form or another. We encourage them to do the right thing, to look after others, to speak out if they see something amiss.

We try to teach them to be decent people, critical thinkers and upstanding citizens with strong moral compasses, who will raise their voices in support of what is true, good and right, even when it's unpopular to do so.

Then, when they do just that – when they live up to our highest hopes – the world teaches them that no good deed goes unpunished.

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Older generations, becoming uncomfortably aware of their fast waning relevance, chide them. They may have a point, their elders say, but they didn't make it the right way, at the right time, in the right place, or in a manner that didn't threaten the established order.
They may have a point, they allow, but that point doesn't suit me.

Next week, school students around the world will strike to condemn inaction around climate change.

March 15 has been marked as a day of global protest, during which young people will take to the streets to demand action to prevent further global warming.

Kiwi kids will be among them, with protests organised in more than 20 centres around the country.

I'm immensely proud of them. The next generation of rangatahi fills me with hope. Whenever I'm lucky enough to engage with them, I'm struck by their intelligence, creativity, bravery and determination to stand up and be heard.

The kids planning to strike next week are our future leaders. They're the ones who will have to deal with the impacts of catastrophic climate change, and they're determined to do something about it.

They are imploring us – nay, screaming at us – to save the world they are going to inherit before it's too late.

We owe it to them to listen and to act. For too long, we've put off making any serious moves to counteract climate change. We've used every excuse in the book – it's too expensive, it'll ruin the economy, it's not really happening, we're too small to make a difference, it'll bankrupt farmers, and, though it's not often stated so baldly, well ... a large number of the current decision-makers (and voters) will be dead by the time the climate wars break out, so ... oh well.

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It may not be older generations' problem, but it will be mine, and it will be my children's.

It will likely be the biggest global issue your children and/or your grandchildren will ever have to contend with, and it poses such a terrifying threat to our continued survival that it simply cannot be ignored any longer.

The school kids striking next Friday know that, and that they're opting for open revolt over this issue should be a wake up call for all of us.

When kids are taking to the streets to voice their frustrations, the adults – yes, that's us – have dramatically let them down.

Standing up, having a voice, and fulfilling your civic duty to be an engaged citizen are all lessons that can start in classrooms, but they must be experienced out in the real world for them to truly embed.

I never attended a protest while I was at school, but I remember missing a couple of days of class in Form Two to organise a Christmas present drive for the Salvation Army. My parents supported me wholeheartedly.

Had I stayed in class those two days, I would have no lingering recollection of the lessons I was taught. Instead, I have a memory that will stay with me for a lifetime of an experience that taught me valuable organisation and communication skills, and increased my capacity for empathy.

The classroom isn't the only location for learning.

I'm not a parent, but if in a decade or so I'm lucky enough to have a child who is willing to stand up and speak out for what's right, I'll be extremely proud of them.

If they manage to organise a group of their friends to join them and they decide to protest during school hours, I'll consider it a learning moment much more valuable than one missed day of school.

And anyway, given I will likely have taken my child out of school on the odd occasion for far less noble reasons like holidays during term time and extra-curricular opportunities – let's be realistic – I'd be a hypocrite if I tried to stop them.

And aren't we all hypocrites as a society if we decry the decision our young people have made to speak up for what's right, to look after others and be upstanding, responsible citizens?

Our kids deserve our respect and admiration for getting out there and saying what many adults are too scared, self-interested or apathetic to say.

Our continued inaction may well be their death sentence. They're marching for their lives, for our planet, and for our future.

Out of the mouths of babes ...