Corrymeela Climate Panel Speech

I attended a climate panel and was invited to give a speech here it is. The brief was to talk about my work:

Hello, my name is Anna Kernahan, I’m seventeen years old and I live in Belfast. I have been doing solo strikes every Friday as a part of Fridays for future Belfast. I first got into striking by participating in the uk student climate network which do monthly strikes for the climate. On the 20th of September, we had seven thousand people whereas just eight strikes previously we had twenty people. The movement in Northern Ireland has grown rapidly and our numbers have increased drastically from February when we first started.

We’ve kept pressure on politicians by striking regularly and inviting them to say speeches so they can see it for themselves and on the 20th of September, Belfast City Council agreed to vote on whether or not they would declare a climate emergency. This was supposed to be a massive step forward in terms of climate justice in this country but I had mixed feelings to be honest. We sat in the public viewing gallery at the full council meeting and listened. They declared a climate emergency five minutes in and proceeded to discuss flags for an hour and a half. I think they think we’ve got what we wanted now and we’ll go back to school and obey the rules. But we can’t sit idle and be obedient. We don’t have the time to be obedient.

This is meant to be a speech about my work but it is impossible to talk about things just I have done. Everything in the youthstrike4climate movement is done on a grassroots level and is decided by countless emails and zoom calls. However I can talk about what we have done.

We have set up a stall alongside extinction rebellion at culture night to facilitate climate crafts with free vegan food to help the general public become more aware of us and what we do.

We have attended amazing events such as this one where we learn so much and gain a completely new perspective on the climate crisis and what we can do to improve our action. Also, so as we can learn more from you guys and you can learn from us.

And the big one. We organise the big global climate strikes in Northern Ireland including strikes in Belfast, Portrush and Enniskillen. This organisation is 99% answering emails and 1% talking in interviews and actually striking. I was the stage manager so I was making sure all the politicians and young people etc got on and off the stage at the correct time which was incredibly stressful but also incredibly rewarding and humbling.

The reason that I want to fight for climate justice is that I am too young to vote and I feel like it is the best way that I can do my part to raise awareness on the climate crisis.

Many people say to me, why do you bother? My friends and me spend basically all of our spare time and more on this fight and people want to know why. Maybe some of you are in the same boat.

I would respond by saying that your view would change the second you start listening to the scientists. I will value my education as much as I value my life. Seeing as this truly is a life or death situation, I would respond by comparing the current state of the climate as a ticking time bomb. Each tick is another tipping point, like the permafrost in the arctic melting, one more step closer and closer to an uninhabitable planet. The second we set off that irreversible chain reaction that will inevitably cause human extinction, we set off that ticking bomb.

I believe that education and unity are the keys to achieving climate justice. We need to educate ourselves on the climate crisis and then unite behind our knowledge. Although I’m saying this, reading reports such as the IPCC one on climate change will give us a groundwork and a common knowledge of the issue and how to solve it however unfortunately it’s much more complicated than that. I think this is just the basis of the solution. We need equity alongside this.

Achieving climate justice plays a pivotal role in solving the climate crisis. The ability of populations to mitigate and adapt to the negative consequences of the climate crisis are shaped by factors such as income, race, class, gender, capital and political representation. Because of the fact that low-income communities and communities of color possess few if any adaptive resources, they tend to be much more vulnerable to the effects of the climate crisis. On top of that, such populations often receive an unequal share of disaster relief and recovery assistance. They generally have less say and involvement in decision-making and the political and legal processes that relate to climate crisis and the natural environment.

If you want to get more actively involved, honestly just go for it. Just go to one strike. There’s no commitment. Just go to one and experience the community spirit and the hope and the sense of power. There is absolutely no pressure and we are all in the same boat. We’ve all had our first strike. And we’ve all stuck with it. Any support is appreciated and you’re always welcome. Join the revolution.

The climate crisis is a real thing. The climate crisis is happening. The climate crisis will affect you. It’s happening now. We need systematic change, but that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. We need individual change in order to achieve systematic change. Our best is a start but at this stage it’s not going to be enough. We need to do what has never been done before and I know that’s terrifying but we have each other. We will beat this system. We will solve the climate crisis. But we have to do it together.

I’m looking forward to hearing your views on this issue and can’t wait to get started.

Thank you very much.