Bournemouth’s Greta Generation – the 11-year-old who started the local School Strike 4 Climate

Izzy Lindsey-Clark is eleven years old. Like all eleven-year-olds, she has dreams for the future. What does she want to be when she grows up? “I’m not sure what I want to be yet,” she admits, “but I’m hoping to work with marine life in particular, because I care a lot about the sea.”

But also like many eleven-year-olds today, she has big fears for her future. A landmark report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently warned the world that we have just twelve years left to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, which scientists say marks the descent into climate catastrophe. The risk of severe weather events, droughts, floods and extreme poverty for millions of people would drastically worsen should we cross the 1.5 degree threshold. “In twelve years time, I will be twenty-three, only just starting to be a grown-up. What kind of world will it be?”

And she’s right to be worried. Earlier this month, a Melbourne-based think tank released a damning report that warns of a 1.5 C world by 2030 and 2 C by 2040, with human civilization as we know at considerable risk of coming to an end. It suggests that climate reports like the IPCC’s lean toward the conservative end of estimates and do not factor in all of the processes that could compound and exacerbate the climate crisis.

“Us kids have a right to have a future, but the adults don’t have a right to take it away with their inaction,” Izzy shouts to a crowd of fresh young activists, cheering and pumping their placards to the call for climate justice. Izzy has dreams for the future, so she decided to fight for them by organising the very first ‘Youth Strike 4 Climate’ in her seaside town. Despite the February chill, 44 people turned out to the first Bournemouth climate strike and marched with Izzy from her Primary School to MP Tobias Ellwood’s local office. “I was thinking it would only be me, my mum and my friend, but a surprisingly large number of people came.”

Bournemouth has since had four more youth climate strikes which Izzy and friends have coordinated, drawing in students and climate conscious citizens from all over the conurbation in their hundreds.

Izzy started out planning the first strike by writing emails to invite others along to the protest  and making petitions for students and teachers in her school to sign. She set up an event on Facebook and even created her own website to tell people in her own words why she planned to school strike for climate and why they should too. It also features a beautiful video advertising her local school strike campaign – again, her creation, complete with ‘protesting Izzy’ self-portrait. Why are these strikes so important to her? “Because we can inspire more children like me and so that normal people can hear about it,” she says, with no small amount of determination.

Turning up to any of the strikes so far would have given you an insight into the hard work and dedication Izzy has put into their success. Each petition has been pasted by hand onto a scroll of paper, in separate sections with colourful lettering and different fonts. Every paragraph has been decorated with personalised doodles. The care and attention Izzy has put into each letter, is the sort of commitment on tackling the climate crisis that she is hoping to see from local council and government officials.

While Greta calls out the UK government’s shortcomings as self-professed climate leaders, Izzy and her cohorts take the fight to their local council. In her latest hand-crafted letter, which she rolled out across Bournemouth Square for passers-by to sign before delivering to Green Councillor Simon Bull at Bournemouth Town Hall, Izzy points out that “BCP Council is the 12th biggest council in England. If you want to be a Green Economy Leader, this is your chance to show what leadership is.”

Her demands, signed by over 400 students and supporters, were for the new BCP Council to “declare a climate and ecological emergency to help people understand that the climate crisis is serious and needs urgent action, and commit to zero carbon by 2030.” The BCP Council has just this Tuesday 16 July done just that. Izzy’s petition also calls for the council to “start making impactful changes to council policy” and suggests a number of ways the council can begin to demonstrate this through new green policy initiatives – all things that might now be useful for the Council in the coming months as they gather ideas for how they are to tackle this ambition.

Izzy is determined for her future, for the future of Bournemouth, but also for the future of the wildlife she so loves. “I love animals and wildlife, but because of global warming, the things I care about are under threat! I want to try and save the coral reefs and its inhabitants. It makes me upset to think that I might not get there in time. That’s why I was so determined to help.”

Again, she’s right to be upset. The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) state that we have lost approximately half the world’s coral reefs since the 1870s and indicate that in a world warmed to 1.5 C over pre-industrial temperatures, coral reefs will decline by a further 70 to 90% of their former cover. At 2 C warming, of the world’s coral reefs that existed before human activity started drastically altering the climate, just 1% will remain. Izzy could very well grow up in a world where coral reefs are consigned to natural history books.

Izzy’s favourite sea creature is the Toothed Pirimela, a species of crab with seven sharp teeth that can be found locally. “They are so tiny and unique and their name makes them sound like a furious beast, but they’re really just 1cm crabs.” Her appreciation for these little crustaceans is a reminder that sometimes, it’s the smaller things that matter most. And in all that Izzy and her fellow student climate strikers are doing, Greta Thunberg’s inspirational words are evident: you are never too small to make a difference.