Climate challenge

Pupil protest: Wakatipu High School pupils Alice Gilbert, Fineen Hingston and Grace Mai, all 15, at last week's climate march

“It would be a good idea to stop it, before we all die.”

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more succinct way to sum up why Queenstown teens took to the streets last week than those words from 15-year-old Alice Gilbert.

She was one of dozens of resort pupils, and millions of young people worldwide, who protested climate change inaction last Friday.

“Climate change is a very big threat to our futures, and if we don’t act on it very quickly, then we are likely to not have a future,” she said.

“We need the government to create an incentive for people to trade in their petrol cars for electric cars, and to stop using non-renewable resources, otherwise nothing’s going to happen.”

Her classmate, Fineen Hingston, 15, agreed.

“The older generation aren’t going to live to see the effects of climate change, so for them, stopping climate change only has costs like the temporary costs of having to pay to have an electric car instead of a petrol car.

“It costs more for them to stop climate change than for them to just let it happen, because they’re not going to live to see it.”

The decision to attend the march wasn’t without repercussions.

In a school newsletter before the march, Wakatipu High School principal Steve Hall said the school was “supporting a group of students who are actively involved in work on the environment and sustainability and who are part of our school’s environmental group to attend the march, and we believe they will represent our students well”.

“For other students who choose to attend the march, which is at 2.45pm, our normal attendance procedures will apply – i.e. if parents explain their absence they will be marked ‘explained and unjustified’, but students who are absent without their parents’ explanation will be marked as truant.”

That didn’t deter Alice.

“If I do get a detention, why’s 20 minutes of detention going to stop me trying to help the world?”