Speech by George Hassall at #Manchester #SchoolsStrike4climate

This below is the text of the speech given by George Hassall  in St Peter’s Square, Manchester, on Friday 15 February, reprinted with kind permission.


Placard designed by George’s Aunt, Claire.


I’m George and like the rest of us here today I’m representing the voice of young people. For me, coming here and speaking up about climate change, for what I believe is right, is so important and I want to be able to say, “I was there, I was there when young people took action”

But I just want to take a moment here to reflect. In the 21st century we look back on significant events like World Wars 1 & 2, the first man on the moon, women’s’ rights and Rosa Parks refusing to move from her seat. Now I was having this conversation with my mum and I said “In 50 years from now when we look back at how far we’ve come, what will we look back on? Will we look back at a time of great invention? Will we still see a beautiful world of great natural landscapes? Or will we look back on a world of rust and steel? A world with no ice caps, a world with no forests. A world therefore without polar bears, without orangutans, a “world without life.”

With that in mind we need to think about what we’ve done, what we’ve done to this planet, what we’ve done to our home. Human beings now populate nearly every land mass in the world. How many more animals are going to die because of us? How many more innocent lives will it take for us to wake up to what is happening to our precious planet.

I believe, “Seeing is human, but opening your eyes is a skill.” This couldn’t be more apparent than today. If we reflect back on the faults of man, many animal species have been affected by hunting. Take the dodo bird for example, peaceful, innocent. No more is the dodo bird, when settlers kill, wipe out, exterminate the whole population.  All dead because of us, climate change just like hunting, means that innocent wildlife is lost forever, because of the greed of man, all for the need of man, the hunger of man.

Now it’s time to talk about the other things that climate change will inevitably affect; wetter summers, warmer and possibly later winters, early springs. If we’re going to mess with the weather we’re going to mess with the ecosystem. Some plants only have one pollinating insect, a bee for example that that plant relies on, and that bee relies on that one plant. If that plant and bee go out of sync, (kaput) they’re both dead.

That is what is going to happen if we continue to refuse to accept what is going on right in front of us. If we think of this on a practical (and I dare say on an economical) level If we have these varying seasons; when the blossom appeared early on apple trees in New York one spring all was fine. But then there was a cold snap, all the blossom, all the future apples, lots of people from New York wanting apples and all the money made from the apple business, gone. That is the hard truth we’re going to have to face.

I represent the generation who climate change will most affect and I see it as my job to spread the word.

I shall end my speech with a bit of rewording from one of my favourite songs, London Calling by The Clash

Young Un’s calling to the faraway towns
Now war is declared and battle come down
Young Un’s calling all over the world
Come out of the suburbs, you boys and girls
Young Un’s calling, look to us
Phony petrolmania has bitten the dust
Young Un’s calling, see we got lots o’ swing
Except for the collapse of the ozone ring

The ice age is coming, the sun is zooming in
Meltdown expected, the wheat is growin’ thin
Engines stop running, but I have some fear
‘Cause Young Un’s are calling out, and we live for our future

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The #climatestrike in#Manchester – hopes and fears…

So, it happened!  It happened all across the UK. And in Manchester it was  (far) bigger, noisier and far more FUN than anyone expected it would be.  There were hundreds (perhaps a thousand?) congregated in St Peters Square.

Dozens of young people getting the chance to do some public speaking. This speech, from Emma Greenwood, was really good (as were many others!). [See bottom of this post for transcript]

There was singing. There were hand prints.


There were many parents supporting their children.  There were old and new adult climate activists looking on.

Meanwhile, of course, Teresa May was, well, Teresa May. Quelle surprise.

Beyond “bravo” to all those who participated (and to whoever came up with “I’ll do my A-levels if you do something about sea-levels”, I want to simply say this:

I suspect there’s a lot of fear, underneath the hope and the energy.  It’s great that the youth are out, that they’re saying what many of them have no doubt been thinking for years – you really cannot trust the adults.  That fear needs to be shared, and people need to support each other with it, perhaps through it.

My fears and doubts are these (and I’ve got something coming out somewhere that gets more traffic than this – I’ll back link when it does).

  • What happens after the bigger (?) strike on Friday 15 March?  Will there be (god I hope not) the call for a “Youth Climate March” in London.
  • Will charismatic youthful “leaders” be thrown up by the NGOs, the media, and the focus turn to them, with the false message that only if we have leaders can we have success (Noam Chomsky on this

The way things change is because lots of people are working all the time, and they’re working in their communities or their workplace or wherever they happen to be, and they’re building up the basis for popular movements. In the history books, there’s a couple of leaders, you know, George Washington or Martin Luther King, or whatever, and I don’t want to say that those people are unimportant. Martin Luther King was certainly important, but he was not the Civil Rights Movement. Martin Luther King can appear in the history books ‘cause lots of people whose names you will never know, and whose names are all forgotten and who may have been killed and so on were working down in the South.

  • Will the big NGOs try to capture (in every sense) the narrative?   Probably/certainly.  There will be ‘youth ambassadors’ etc etc.  But those NGOs have, mostly, been part of the problem.
  • Crucially – and I have no answers to this, or none that I think is compelling – how might parents, and would-be allies – help the youth go through the learning curve faster than has happened in previous times. Do “we” actually have anything useful to offer? And if we do, how to offer it in ways likely to help rather than irritate? (I call this the POG problem – for “Piss off Grandpa/Grandma”).



PS Thanks to Emma Greenwood for permission to use her clip, and for posting it on Youtube.  Here is the transcript –


We are here today to make a statement to those in power saying we want a future and that the protection of our plant needs to stop coming second place. So far, the government have been words over actions and that has to change. Change is no longer an option it is an obligation. No longer shall the government be able to ignore our demand to a safe and clean future.

Sea levels are rising at their fastest rate in 2,000 years, our oceans are 26% more acidic than at the start of the industrial revolution and there are more green houses gases in the atmosphere than ever before. This is no longer a what if scenario, it is a when scenario.

We need to stop allowing companies to put profit in front of protection and preservation. The attitude can no longer be ‘you can’, it needs to become ‘you must’. You have the power to demand the change you want to see and hold companies responsible for their actions.

When we start to change our thoughts and the way we live, we can change the world. As Nelson Mandela said “Action without vision is only passing time, vision without action is merely day dreaming but vision with action can change the world”. And that is what we are doing here today.

Who ever you are, where ever you are, you have the power to be the change you want to see in the world. To everyone hearing this, this strike is a message from all young people saying “We want a future”.

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Upcoming Events at University of #Manchester on #climate change Weds 20 February

First floor of University of Manchester Students’ Union, 4 to 6pm, Weds 20 Feb.


Alternative Lecture Series. Climate Change: Historical Perceptions & International Negotiation

We have multiple speakers in this week!

The first two are Masters students from the School of History of Science, Technology and Medicine – Robert Naylor and Amber Quraishi on Historical Perceptions of Climate Change:

The traditional story of climate change is one of big international conferences between governments, leading to grand sounding resolutions which rarely seem to be kept to. However, the 1970s show is that the story could have been very different, with smaller, more user based approaches for adapting to climate change being explored around this time. There will be surprises along the way – the first climate change act in the US was brought to Congress by one Democrat and two Republicans. The discussion surrounding climate was very different to today, but nevertheless we can draw lessons if we choose to. Prepare your preconceptions challenged about the climate debate.


Ignore the bit that says “lectures” – I don’t do lectures if I can avoid it (as in, formal ones. Lots of ranting, but in a lecture format, I try to subvert)

Title: International Climate Negotiations – a fun bluffer’s guide.

What’s the Paris Agreement?  What does it say? What was the Kyoto Protocol and (why) should you care? What does UNFCCC stand for?  What are these COPs that I keep hearing about, and has any of it ever made any difference? If you’re confused about the international climate negotiations that have been going on for thirty years, come to this session – meet other confused and less-confused people.  Learn some useful facts in a fun way, get to ask as many questions as you want and go away with new friends, new sources of information and inspiration.

Marc Hudson recently passed his viva: his thesis was on incumbent resistance to carbon pricing in Australia.  He is old enough to remember (all to well) the 1992 Rio Earth Summit.  He edits manchesterclimatemonthly.net

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Does #Manchester “Low Carbon Culture” Council support the #ClimateStrike?

On Friday thousands of children in the UK will go on strike from school because their parents are doing (less than) nothing about climate change, condemning them to an at-best grim future.  Ten years ago Manchester City Council said it would work with the people of Manchester to create a “low carbon culture.”

So, do they support children going on strike? Rumour reaches us that the Council has told schools that they must NOT allow absence for this purpose.  We’ve tweeted at the Executive Member for the Environment, Angeliki Stogia,


futile stogia tweet


who occasionally seems to have problems giving a speedy answer to requests for information.

We’ve also sent this FoIA, but won’t get a response for 20 working days. Still, that will be in good time for the March 15 strike, which will probably be bigger.

Dear Sir/Madam,

I have heard a rumour that the City Council has instructed schools that they cannot give leave to students/parents for children to take part in the February 15 “climate strike”.
I am writing to request

  • all legal advice sought/received by the Council around this issue (including internal deliberations/discussions within the City Solicitor’s office, or whoever is responsible)
  • copies of all correspondence between schools and the City Council pertaining to the February 15 2019 “Climate Strike”.
  • copies of minutes of internal deliberations held by Council officers and elected members on the Executive about the stance of the City Council.
  • Given that the City Council has the goal to create a “low carbon culture” I am particularly interested to know if any officer or elected member suggested at any point that the City Council SUPPORT the strike.

Many thanks and Please consider this a request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000

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Job Alert: Carbon Coop retrofit project officer, #Manchester

full details here


Carbon Co-op domestic retrofit project officer

Deadline: 5pm, Tuesday 5th March 2019
Time: 0.6-1.0 FTE
FTE: £28,428
Start date: March/April 2019
End date: Permanent
Status: payroll/PAYE
Location: Manchester City Centre

We are seeking a new team member to contribute to our work on domestic retrofit and lead on our four year Friends Provident Foundation-funded, Energy Empowerment Greater Manchester project. You will be part of an inter-disciplinary team of people developing citizen-led solutions to creating a market for domestic deep retrofit in Greater Manchester and beyond.

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Upcoming Event: Blood Bricks: Untold Stories of Modern Slavery and #Climate Change from Cambodia #Manchester 20 Feb

The Global Development Institute is pleased to host Prof Kate Brickell as part of the GDI Lecture Series, talking about: Blood Bricks: Untold Stories of Modern Slavery and Climate Change from Cambodia

Cambodia is in the midst of a construction boom. The building of office blocks, factories, condominiums, housing estates, hotels, and shopping malls is pushing its capital city upwards. But this vertical drive into the skies, and the country’s status as one of Asia’s fastest growing economies, hides a darker side to Phnom Penh’s ascent. Building projects demand bricks in large quantities and there is a profitable domestic brick production industry using multi-generational workforces of debt-bonded adults and children to supply them.

Moving from the city, to the brick kiln, and finally back to the rural villages once called home, the talk traces how urban ‘development’ is built on unsustainable levels of debt taken on by rural families struggling to farm in one of the most climate vulnerable countries in the world. Phnom Penh is being built not only on the foundation of blood bricks, but also climate change as a key driver of debt and entry into modern slavery in brick kilns. Blood bricks embody the converging traumas of modern slavery and climate change in our urban age.

The study (2017-2019) was co-funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and Department for International Development (DFID). For more information see http://www.projectbloodbricks.org.

The Global Development Lecture Series brings experts involved in global development to The University of Manchester. It aims to facilitate dialogue and discussion, providing a space for leading development thinkers to share their latest research and ideas. Lectures are followed by an audience Q&A. All lectures are live streamed on the Global Development Institute Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/globaldevinst

This event is open to members of the public and information on the accessibility of the venue is detailed at this link: https://www.accessable.co.uk/venues/roscoe_th-b

For full details see


Katherine Brickell

Role: Professor of Human Geography

Organisation: Royal Holloway, University of London

Biography: Katherine Brickell is Professor of Human Geography at Royal Holloway, University of London (RHUL) and Principal Investigator of the ‘Blood Bricks’ study. She is Director of the Geopolitics, Development, Security, and Justice Research Group at RHUL; editor of the journal Gender, Place and Culture; and has successfully led two ESRC-DFID grants on human rights issues in Cambodia. Her research has been published in leading academic journals in geography, development studies, and women’s studies. Books she has co-edited include The Handbook of Contemporary Cambodia (2017); Geographies of Forced Eviction (2017) and Translocal Geographies (2011). Her new monograph Home SOS: Gender, Violence and Survival in Crisis Ordinary Cambodia will be published in 2019. For her research excellence she has been awarded the Royal Geographical Society Gill Memorial Award (2014) and Philip Leverhulme Prize (2016).

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The Daily (Hate) Mail and #climate change, a response. #YouthStrikeforClimate #FridaysfortheFuture #climatebreakdown

The Daily Mail.  Words enough to send a chill up the spine of any actually sentient being.  And of course, they report the school strike with a headline that sums up, well, a lot.

“Fury as headteachers BACK pupil strike that will see thousands of schoolchildren walk out of lessons next week in a protest over climate change”

And no I am not linking to the bloody article. Their business model relies on outrage and salacious grot, and must not be fed.
MCFly reader Calum (see interview with him here)  has bashed out a reply to the Tory MP (and former primary school teacher – I bet he feels right at home) who was quoted (possibly accurately) in the article.  He has given permission for it to be reprinted on this site. Here it is:
Dear Mr Wragg
I note with dismay your comments in the recent Daily Mail article (1) regarding the school strikes for government action on climate change.
Climate change (or breakdown, or catastrophe) is not an intellectual curiosity to learn about in a classroom; it represents an existential threat both to human civilisation and the incredible diversity of life on the planet. It is not something that might happen to our grandchildren, it’s already causing devastation all around the world (2). We felt the impact in last summer’s weather, and saw it in the empty reservoirs in the Peak District, weather that was repeated all across the Northern Hemisphere, hitting crop yields in Russia, Canada and Europe, as well as other yields of other key crops in the UK by similar amounts (3). If such weather becomes normal, it will cause widespread food shortages, which is particularly alarming for a country such as the UK which already imports up to half its food (considerably more when considering fruit and vegetables).
Ice cap melt is accelerating at both poles, as is the drinking water for literally billions of people dependent on glacial meltwater from the Himalayas, raising sea levels and of course reducing drinking water.
There is well documented collapse in animal life (4, 5, 6) all around the globe. What remains of the worlds’ tropical forests are under threat from logging and development for cattle grazing and animal fodder monoculture (7). The UK is one of the most ecologically depleted nations (8), despite our reputation as a “nation of animal lovers”.
Meanwhile fossil fuel companies around the world ramp up plans to extract and sell more oil and gas. Governments cheer lead for more economic growth, suicidally addicted to an economic paradigm that is dangerously out of date.  CO2 levels are higher than anything humanity has ever encountered (9) and our current emissions trajectory is on course to raise global average temperatures by as much as 5 degrees centigrade by the end of the century (10), which would destroy human civilisation and the majority of global ecosystems.
I could go on and on – but I hope you take my point. Against such a bleak background, seeing their futures set on fire, dug up, hunted or cut down for profit, we must all support our children in whatever acts of protest they can make – and then take courage from their bravery to push for the radical changes we will need to survive. I believe if nations such as the UK can show true leadership in this, others will follow our example.  This is the challenge of our lives – it will not spare Hazel Grove any more than anywhere else. I have read that politicians do not believe that climate change and ecological disaster are things that their constituents are concerned about – I hope this message will begin to change your mind.
Calum McFarlane, SK7
(and proud father of a striking son)
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