'How can we sit at school & do nothing?': Sydney teenager Alexia Giannesini is taking action on climate change

‘How can we sit at school & do nothing?’: Sydney teenager Alexia Giannesini is taking action on climate change

Australia’s school students are once again set to strike against inaction on climate change.

On Friday 15th March, students from all over the world will take part in a school strike, including thousands across Australia.

This follows the massive climate strike in December last year, inspired by Swedish school student Greta Thunberg, who sparked a global movement by camping out outside of the Swedish Parliament every Friday.

Meet Alexia Giannesini.

She’s a Sydney teenager and part of the committee of climate strikers organising the Sydney leg of the school strike on Friday. She’s passionate about action on climate change and will help facilitate the strike, organising specifics including time, location and the schedule.

“I don’t know of any climate striker that genuinely wants to miss school. I wish we could live in a country where I could go to school every day with the reassurance that my government was taking care of me and my future,” Alexia says. “But the reality is far different.”

Organisers are demanding Australia adopt 100% renewable energy by 2030, no new investments in coal and that the Adani coalmine be stopped immediately.

Below, Alexia tells Women’s Agenda why she decided to get so heavily involved in the climate strike, her part in the initiative Climate Leaders and why she can’t sit at school anymore and do nothing.

Alexia Giannesini

How involved were you with the climate strike that happened at the end of last year?

Being a member of the Student Climate Action Network and a graduate of the Student Climate Leadership Program run by the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, I worked alongside numerous people to help organise and facilitate the day.

It was a complex project but one that was absolutely worth it. Following on from the day itself, I travelled to the nation’s capital to strike further at Parliament House and to give a press conference for the Australian media.

Can you tell us a little about your role in the climate strike happening on March 15?

I have been a part of the committee of climate strikers organising the specifics of the day include time, location and run schedule. I will help to facilitate on the day as well to ensure everything runs smoothly.

Was there a specific moment in the past couple of years that made you passionate about climate action and inspired you to take on a position of leadership in this movement?

While on a family holiday on the Western Coast of Mexico, I went to visit what was known in our guide book as “one of the most stunning coral reefs in the area”. However, what I saw through my snorkel mask was far different. Rather than seeing the vibrant colours of an abundant and biodiverse coral population, all I saw was white lifeless coral skeletons. It was a real shock to see the impacts of climate change first-hand and made me realise how important it is to protect our environment.

So, several weeks later when I received an email from the Australian Youth Climate Coalition offering the Climate Leadership Program, I knew it was time to stop sitting around inundated with the guilt of doing nothing and to take action.

As I met with other students my age who shared the same experience, I realised that as a group we were not only high in numbers but high in passion.

Over the course of several months, the idea of the climate strike was born and I naturally knew I wanted to have a role to stress to our government the importance of action on climate change.

With the federal election coming up, awareness of Australia’s climate inaction is as important as it ever has been, especially for Australia’s youth. What is the sentiment like among your peers at school?

It is evident amongst my peers at school that we feel let down by our current government. Despite there being more than enough evidence to prove the existence of anthropogenic climate change, we feel that the government is often more concerned with pocketing the political donations of fossil fuel companies than ensuring that our generation will have a future with a safe and stable climate.

Furthermore, our age often lets us down. As many of us are not yet of voting age, we can often feel powerless in face of a government that will not listen to us. However in the upcoming federal election, there are some beacons of hope for climate action.

I have been working with the Climate Leaders program to endorse the candidates that place a strong emphasis on climate change such as Oliver Yates of Kooyong and Zali Steggall of Warringah. These candidates provide a sense of inspiration and hope for many people at my school who long to see a government with a strong policy on climate change.  The aim of Climate Leaders is to recruit even more of these kind of candidates – people who can represent young voices and deliver visionary climate policy.

How did you feel after Prime Minister Scott Morrison stated there should be “more learning” and “less activism” in schools after last year’s climate strike? What is your response to these comments?

I don’t know of any climate striker that genuinely wants to miss school. I wish we could live in a country where I could go to school every day with the reassurance that my government was taking care of me and my future. But the reality is far different.

When the world as we know it is being threatened by climate change, how can we sit at school and do nothing about it ?

Most climate strikers learn about the causes and dangers of climate change at school and it is their passion for their education that pushes them to take a stand on the issue. We miss school not because we want to, but because we have no other alternative to have our voices heard by our government.

Can you tell us a little about how Climate Leaders started and what you aim to achieve through the initiative?

Climate Leaders is an initiative that aims to put a spotlight on the candidates with a strong stance for climate action in the upcoming election. It was created by a group of strikers as a follow-up to the climate strike, as we wanted to make a difference, not only through protest but also through the electoral system.

Our current politicians aren’t listening, so we want to recruit candidates across the country to run for us and the climate.

We want to fill the government with Climate Leaders to make climate change a major policy focus for candidates in the federal election and to broadcast to voters the candidates that are leading the way for climate action.

What qualities do you hope to see in the person elected to represent your electorate at the next federal election?

Living in Warringah and being passionate about reversing climate change has always been difficult due to our current member consistently denying government policy on the issue. I hope that in the next federal election, we see someone elected that is able to accurately represent the electorate’s values and wishes. We want to see someone that supports real action on climate change, and responds to the needs of our community.

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