Interview: Anica Renner

Anica is a year ten student who was heavily involved in the School Strike for Climate this year – in fact, she MC’d it! On top of this, she’s met with Bill Shorten and spoken in State Government. Here she is, discussing her passion for the movement, the environment, and the little things in life.

What was your specific role in the climate strike movement?

Ok, so. It’s a grassroots movement so it’s not that specific – no on’es in charge of one group. In Victoria, we had a team who we allocated different jobs to and carried the load together. It wasn’t you do this, you do this. I was part of the organizing team of that, and MC’d the strike on the 15th of March.

That’s so impressive! Did you find the free-from allocation of roles natural, or would you have liked more structure?

No, it did feel natural. I only joined the planning team this year, but we’ve met face to face a bunch of times. It works well because its just students, and we don’t have something to conform to. Were all passionate about it and all want the same thing. The one thing we have in common is passion, and we come together with our individual skills. On a state wide basis it works really well, but nationally, it’s a bit harder. We have calls, but it’s hard to make decisions like that.

Do you think the natural, less structured organization model could be carried into the future, or do you think it’s unique to the student experience?

It works well w student because we haven’t been in a structured business before, so we don’t have any expectations around what it should be like. I think it has something to do with the fact that we’re all volunteers, and some of us put in less time as others, but I think that we all contributed equally.

Did you find that the older students fell into some roles? How did your age play into things within the organization?

Previously, but now it’s growing so rapidly that when year twelves graduate they can support the movement but they technically can’t be part of it anymore. So now we’re trying to engage younger students as well. I think that just because on average older students are more mature, and usually have more succinct values, that they usually sit on top.

On that, do you think the older students have much of a responsibility in shaping the values of the younger students?

Interesting questions. I think that the values of the school strike movement are pretty broad. They’d probably be democracy, and really, the three demands, which are stop Adani, no new fossil fuels, and 100% renewables by 2030. Outside of that, people come from different view points. Some are religious, some are not, some have connections to the Labour or Liberal or Greens party, and so outside of the demands its really fluid. Its really cool because we have so many different people coming for one unique thing, which Is what

makes the school strike movement so unique. And as we’re kids, we’re learning along the way, so we’re really supportive of each other. There’s no indoctrination of younger kids, but the values you take away from it are hard work,  care for the world, compassion towards different people, we talk about first nations people a lot – so we talk about how climate change affects different communities disproportionately.

I feel that even in having those discussions, younger people are going to pick up really admirable values, even without indoctrination.

Yeah, which is inevitable I guess. But it’s mainly year 10s and up. We have one year 6, who everyone loves, but other than that there aren’t that many younger kids.

Why did you choose the climate strike over other issues or even environmental organisations?

Because its so imminent, encompasses everything, and is so immediate. Like, we have less that eleven years to have gotten change done. Ill be 26, which is crazy, which is scary as hell-

Does that sound old or young to you?

Young! That’s an age where I wanna be doing all sorts of fun stuff, not worrying about climate change. If I wanna get married or have kids, that affects where I chose to do that or do it at all. It would ruin the entire world! But also the human element of climate change – while its sad that polar bears are dying, but what gets to me is that people who are already disadvantaged, is linked to climate change – people who are living in more regional areas, vs developed states, seems so unjust  – a tiny people are befitting and a massive chunk of people at the bottom are in such danger.

Do you think that respect for nature outside of the human element as a motivating factor for driving change is useful in any way? Especially for those who didn’t grow up in the city?

Yeah, I understand that. But you have to ask, do you want kids? Do you have nieces and nephews? You have to say, they will be in danger unless we do something. DO that’s how you have to frame it to get to peoples’ values and what they care about. I had a meeting with Bill Shorten earlier this year – we talked about his policies, and when we brought up his kids, you could tell it got to him. We told him about the planet his kids would be living on, and you could tell that it got to him, that it affected him. Which is powerful, because its so true – people don’t want to be afraid that their families are going to die.

Well – high five for emotionally manipulating Bill Shorten! How many of them were you?

Ten from around the country. And I protested in parliament that week!

How does this passion differ from a logical decision? Especially because it is partly a values driven thing – if people were climate activists just based on logic, everyone would chose do to it.

Greta Thunberg talks a lot about how her Asperger’s helps her see the world in black and white – either we survive, or we don’t. I think we have values in our families and our friends, and we have values in a good life, being happy when the sun is shining, but something is threatening those human values – so the intersection is, our values are being put in danger, so the logical thing is to stop that treat.

I’ve always thought that values drive you towards activism, but that’s such an interesting thought – you value the tiny community things, and everything else is protecting that.

Do you think of yourself as a generally enthusiastic or passionate person? Is this a different sort of passion from the other things in your life?

Yes, so as a person I’m really energetic. I’ve always been jumping around everywhere – stubborn isn’t the right word, but I’m very thorough in what I believe. I know what I believe and what I want, and I’m going to be upfront about it. I know others in the movement aren’t necessarily, I have friends who are more reserved – the school strike encompasses a lot of different kinds of people. My drive comes from my personality, where other peoples drive might come from the fear, or for the passion for the environment. I am really passionate about that human element I talked about, but for some other people it might come from the nature.

How do you interact with people older than us, or even our age, who try to detract from this passion? By calling it idealism, or escapism or anything else.

I haven’t encountered many people who talk about it like that. I’m going to use Barnaby Joyce as an example – he talked about how China is going to come and take away our democracy, but then its like well, by saying we shouldn’t stroke, you’re taking away our democracy! I don’t know about people underestimating us because we’re students – then again, I’m surrounded by supportive people. Anyone else is probably just ignorant of the information at hand, or they benefit from the way things are.

That’s the end of my questions – thank you so much! Good luck for September.

Thank you!

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