A record-breaking drought, water restrictions, and trips to the principal’s office: welcome to the daily life of Australia’s youngest climate activist, who plans to lead tomorrow’s student climate strike in Tamworth.
Lucy Lyden, 12, recently spoke with PEDESTRIAN.TV about her involvement in September 20’s School Strike 4 Climate, her hopes for a sustainable future, and yes, her run-ins with authorities at Tamworth Public School.
“It’s something that I’m so passionate about, and something that I really believe in. It makes me feel good,” Lyden said of her role in the upcoming School Strike 4 Climate demonstrations.
Lyden is the figurehead of Friday’s strike in Tamworth, joining young activists nationwide who will call on the Australian government to take drastic action to mitigate the most severe consequences of climate change.
Inspired by teen activist Greta Thunberg and with the backing of parents, Lyden has urged her classmates to call for no new coal, oil or gas projects in Australia, a switch to 100% renewable energy generation, and job transitions for all fossil fuel workers and their communities.
She said she has convened weekly meetings leading up to the strike, and has personally recruited roughly a dozen people to the cause.
Of course, not every outreach effort has been so well received.
“I emailed every school in Tamworth to ask to promote the strike at their school,” Lyden said.
She said the effort attracted the attention of Principal Chris Connor, whose job it is to, well, keep students in school.
“I got called into the principal’s office and he said that he’s not allowed to talk about this sort of issue at school,” she said.
“So I haven’t got one response from any of the other schools, but I am being optimistic, yes.”
PEDESTRIAN.TV has approached Tamworth Public School for comment.
As one adult in Lyden’s life tries to keep the strike low-key, another has pledged his full support. Mark Lyden, who sat alongside his daughter during our chat, said he was proud of her for tackling “an issue that we adults in the country should notice, and should have noticed years ago.”
That excitement was tempered by fear. Lucy was born in New South Wales’ hottest decade on record. A full 97% of the state is currently afflicted by drought. When unseasonable bushfires ravaged the state last week, Fire and Rescue NSW commissioner Greg Mullins described the situation as “our new normal.”
“I’m worried about her future, because I’ll be long gone by the time she’s my age, and she’ll be suffering the consequences of our inaction,” he said.
And what of Thunberg, who climate deniers have accused of being a puppet for vested interests, or simply a young girl with misplaced fears for the planet?
“To say this has all got to do with some sort of conspiracy that’s leveraging children, who made their own minds, to sell some sort of unspoken mysterious outcome, maybe in the service of some renewable energy corporation… I don’t subscribe to it,” Lyden said.
“And I don’t accept that because a sixteen-year-old can speak her own mind somebody else is necessarily writing the words for her.”
Lucy can speak her own mind, too.
“She’s like, 15 years old, and these 50-year-old men are coming at her, saying how she shouldn’t be doing this.
“I think I saw Andrew Bolt, I can’t remember what he called her, but it was something really revolting.”
(The columnist had described Thunberg as “freakishly influential” with “so many mental disorders”, but given his vehement defences of Cardinal George Pell, we can probably ignore what he thinks about children.)
That Thunberg can “step up at the UN and talk about how important this issue is to them, I think it’s really amazing,” Lyden said.
It seems something amazing is happening in Tamworth, too.
If you’re keen to join Lucy on the strike, check out the event page here.