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Image 1 for Passing the Torch – the kids have spoken

More than 300,000 youth and supporters took to the streets across Australia on September 20th, including 80,000 in Sydney. Photo: Jarrah Lynch.

Image 2 for Passing the Torch – the kids have spoken

Wayne Lynch joins the Global Climate Strike in Byron Bay. Photo: Dane O'Shanassy

Image 3 for Passing the Torch – the kids have spoken

The kids have spoken, they know there’s no room for climate deniers in government and are calling for immediate action. Photo: Jarrah Lynch

Image 4 for Passing the Torch – the kids have spoken

Passing the Torch – the kids have spoken

24 September 19

“Normally I’m all for robbing banks,” jokes Wayne Lynch, surfing pioneer and genuine Australian cultural icon, “but I’m not sure that’s the right way to go about it.” We’re congregated out the front of the Patagonia store in Jonson Street, Byron Bay, awaiting the start of Strike For Climate march and discussing the bomb that was discovered the previous day behind the bank in Mullumbimby, Wayne’s adopted Northern Rivers home.

We’re about a block away from the meeting point and an hour before the rally’s due to begin the town is heavy with sunshine and buzz. A small group of kids pass, chanting – “What do we want? Climate action! When do we want it? Now!” – steering the conversation from the merits of a good bank robbery to the reason we’re here today. “I’ve got great faith in them,” Wayne says after the kids have passed. “I only hope it’s not too late.”

We gather the smattering of signs that the extended Patagonia family have produced and pose for a photo outside the store. Wayne had plans of hand-writing a sign addressed to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (who he refers to as “ScoMo”). Wayne settles for a red handprinted sign that reads, “No Time For Fossils” with a few smiling dinosaurs dotted around the edge. We begin to speculate how many are going to show up to the rally and discuss the schools from the surrounding areas bussing students in. I suggest that if Byron Bay, one of the greenest towns in Australia if not the world, can’t muster a crowd to protest climate change inaction then we really are stuffed.

Why we’re here is quite simple. Whether you pore over the daily papers or take a more laissez faire approach to politics, you can’t fail to have noticed that fossil fuel development is a guiding principle of our Federal Government. Meanwhile, our Great Barrier Reef is on the edge of ruin; it’s getting hotter and drier each year, farms are being devastated, fires are becoming more frequent and severe. Our current policy to counteract such devastating events is to increase the things that science tells us caused them in the first place. The demands of the Australian arm of the global Strike For Climate movement are simple: 1. No new coal, oil and gas projects, including the Adani mine. 2. 100% renewable energy generation and exports by 2030. 3. Fund a just transition and job creation for all fossil fuel workers and communities.

Impending doom however couldn’t be further from the vibe as we saunter in the direction of the rally’s congregation point. It’s a scorching day and Byron’s chapter of Strike For Climate – a coordinated worldwide protest which has formed around tenacious Swedish Activist (and 10th Grader) Greta Thunberg – is in high spirits. And why shouldn’t they be? The crowd gathered – estimated at 6000 – is at least half school kids, and they’ve been given the day off school to laugh and wave banners and make as much noise as they want.

As always with such events there’s a crew of volunteers directing traffic, both pedestrian and automobile. Across the road from the meeting point we’re stopped by a man in high vis and sandals who looks like he’s seen his share of protests.

He must’ve been in his seventies, and once the cars passed he walked into the middle of the road and handed us over to the volunteer on the other side, a 12-year-old boy with slicked-back hair and a loud hailer.

It strikes me as a poignant moment, a literal passing of the megaphone between the last generation to kick up a stink and change the world, and the new generation that has promised to do so, starting now.






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