Eastbourne’s young people are leading the climate charge

It’s an issue so enormous it seems almost incomprehensible and impossible to do anything about.

So we stick our heads in the sand, ignore it, or we claim nothing can be done until polluting giants like China and the US make a green pledge.

But climate change doesn’t care about excuses. It will not rest because armchair critics smugly point out activists use cars and go on holiday.

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Last week we heard Indonesia’s capital Jakarta, home to around 10 million people, is sinking into the sea. Though it might seem a world away, the same rising sea levels caused by climate change could well affect our seaside town.

The fight against rocketing global temperatures is being waged here in Eastbourne – and our young people are leading the charge.

Back in March and April there was a string of school strikes , under the banner #youthstrike4climate. Children took to the streets and seafront of Eastbourne with emotive placards with messages like “it’s our future” and “our house is on fire”.

It’s hard not to be struck by their earnest concern for what is ultimately the future they and their children will have to face.

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Some said pupils should not be striking but in the classroom learning – but will there be any schools to learn at if climate devastation happens? It’s hard to study if your desk is under water.

Walking out of school raises a powerful message that climate change is something youngsters are prioritising, and adults should be too. The next youth strike is on May 24.

And following in the footsteps of Greta Thunburg – the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist who has made headlines the world over – are Katie Laing and Tom Perry, head students at Ratton school. The 15-year-olds are leading an assembly to discuss the urgency of climate change, and are also organising a march along the seafront in July. Kids these days, eh?

But the grown-ups are also doing their bit to raise awareness of the issue.

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Eastbourne Friends of the Earth, together with Parents 4 Future, Greenpeace, and Youth Strike 4 Climate representatives, is lobbying local and national politicians to declare a climate emergency and plan going forward. The environmental campaign group has helped Eastbourne Borough Council draft one of these declarations, which will go before the full council on July 17.

Meanwhile the Bespoke Cycle Group is encouraging residents to get out and about on a pedal bike to reduce car use. With Parents for Future Eastbourne, it has organised a Mass Cycle Ride along Eastbourne seafront on Sunday, June 9, meeting outside the Towner art gallery at 11am. The event aims to raise awareness for the need for a safe seafront cycleway.

Other organisations working to make a difference are Clean Air Eastbourne, a community project monitoring the air quality in town, and Parents for Future Eastbourne, calling for parents to support their children’s climate strikes and lobbying for change using collective power.

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