THIS Friday marks the one year anniversary of the Durham Youth Climate Strike. At 11am on Valentine’s Day young people from across the county will be joined by university students, councillors, campaigners and supporters as they gather again in the market square to call on the Government to declare a national climate emergency and implement a Green New Deal.

It’s been a privilege over the past year to support and also observe the group of young people whose passionate commitment to their planet has brought them out on strike – a decision which for some comes with a cost.

Not all of those who protest do so with the blessing or support of their schools or colleges. For some supporting the strike will mean incurring an unauthorised absence on their record or clashing with official policy just at a time when they are seeking references and reports for university applications.

Last February the then Prime Minister Theresa May criticised the strikes as wasting lesson and teaching time whilst her Conservative counterpart in Australia Scott Morrison (speaking before the fires which devastated the country) condemned those taking part in youth climate strikes and called for “more learning and less activism”.

Thankfully not all of those in positions of leadership take the same view.

At the heart of the Durham Climate Youth Strike have been a contingent from one particular educational institution. Sixth form students from Durham Johnson School have been supported in their efforts by a partnership between the school’s leadership team and governing body who have worked with parents to establish a balanced approach, recognising the importance of public service in its highest form and that education and activism are two sides of the same coin.

The school treats its young people with respect, expecting them to make up time for the work they have missed, whilst in turn the sixth formers come to school before the strike and return for lessons after in recognition of the trust placed in them.

This week’s strike will be marked with symbols of green hearts to recognise that it falls on the day of St Valentine who according to church tradition was martyred in 269AD at the orders of the Roman Emperor Claudius Gothicus for refusing to renounce his faith.

Those who seek to make the world a better have often met with resistance from those in authority. Yet when those in power can provide support rather than censure, the potential for long lasting change, to the benefit of us all, starts to become a possibility.

As John F Kennedy remarked in a speech during a during a time of global crisis: “For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future.”

  • Arun Arora is vicar of St Nicholas Church, Durham.