David Seymour

David Seymour is leader of the ACT Party and Associate Minister of Education (Partnership Schools).


The so-called School Strike for Climate isn’t just a problem for attendance, it is bad for mental health and fixing the climate, too.

Monday and Tuesday were days off school last weekend. Wednesday and Thursday were school days. So was Friday, but 100,000, or one-in-eight, students took the afternoon off to protest everything from honouring the Treaty to climate change to war in the Middle East.

Easter week, sure, but another week where kids didn’t go to school much, can’t have learned much, and won’t be better prepared for the future. These are becoming too normal in New Zealand, and the Government is going big on attendance to get kids back to school regularly.

A bigger problem with the School Strike for Climate is one set out beautifully in the Oxford Union Debate by Konstantin Kisin. In short, there are billions of poor people in the world, and not just poor by New Zealand standards where the government gives you a small income and pays for you to stay in a motel.

They are really poor. Their children will struggle to get enough nutrition to develop properly. They are the 10 per cent or so who still live in absolute poverty. They can see a path to a richer life, and the developed world has already trodden it.

They want to use technologies that affordably raise our life expectancies, usually emitting lots of carbon dioxide. They’re not going to not do it, just like Westerners are not going to not feed their children. They will feed their children first and worry about emissions second. It should be a familiar pattern to Westerners.

Demanding that the New Zealand Government further mutilate the New Zealand economy in the name of climate science won’t help the planet. What will help, as Kisin concludes, is science and technology that allows the poorest people in the world to feed themselves without large emissions.

New Zealand could play a major part in this. We should be the world superpower in agricultural genetics. Unfortunately, the Greens for years led a successful campaign to all but ban genetic technology, making New Zealand the Amish country of genetics.

What’s worse, our educational performance in science is dismal, taking the next generation further away from solving the climate, or any other, problem. The conclusion is that if you really cared about and understood the climate challenge you’d be in school Friday and protesting Saturday.

Perhaps it was just a day off, but there’s a more sinister side to the school strike movement. As several students have argued, it’s not a day off, it’s about saving their lives. They HAVE to take a day off school because, in the words of one child captured on television, “I am literally [sic] going to die from climate change.”

One day we will look back at a time when capricious adults scared children witless, contributing to an epidemic of depression and anxiety, to advance a commercial and political agenda. Kids need to know that there are real problems in the world, but they can be solved. Better still, they need to be pointed towards the solutions.

In the case of climate change, the answer is simple: learn the best maths, science, technology and business you can, and you will be equipped to solve the problem. That is not only a better message for the planet, but for a generation’s mental health.

David Seymour ACT Leader | MP for Epsom

Content republished on The BFD unedited with permission. This content does not necessarily reflect the views of the site or its editor. This content is offered for discussion and for alternative points...