From the May-June 2021 issue of News & Letters
by Buddy Bell
“Despite our grief, we are still optimistic. Our voices are more powerful than before,” said Pamela Elizarraras Acitores, quoted in Vice News. Elizarraras is a climate activist and photographer who created digital portraits of her peers from around the world in order to project their aspirations and demands on the next UN climate change conference, COP26, which will take place in November. Uriel Medina of Colima, Mexico: “I hope that by seeing all the mobilizing the youth around the world are doing, COP organizers understand that we don’t need three doctorates in climate mitigation to be worthy of having an impact on decisions that will affect our future. Youth participation is fundamental for fighting climate change.” Derrick K.E. Nyamedi of Accra, Ghana: “This upcoming COP, I am hoping there will be more solution-driven talks within world leaders and more commitments from them. We already have the solutions to climate change, but it is [still] on them to implement these solutions.” Catalina Santelices of Talca, Chile: “It is not true that young people are not interested in anything. We are here, we are interested, and we want to change things. Change needs to happen now because by the time we are old enough to be in a position to make decisions, it will be too late.”
The reactionary French Senate voted on April 1 to dissolve the 114-year-old National Union of Students of France (UNEF) over its insistence on protecting exclusive student meetings where women and racial minorities can meet to discuss discrimination. UNEF President Melanie Luce told The New York Times the safe spaces are needed because “they lead to powerful and frank conversations.” The Senate amendment to remove the union’s funding still has to go to the National Assembly for a vote.
On April 20, 30 South Korean college students sat in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul while other students shaved their heads. Their action was to visibly protest a plan by Japan to dump more than 1 million tons (264 million gallons) of irradiated water from the Fukushima reactor site into the ocean. One unnamed protester interviewed by Malaysian channel The Star TV said, “Japan made a reckless decision and threatens the lives of our people.” Protesters also denounced John Kerry and the rest of the Biden administration for tacitly supporting Japan’s decision.
More than 60,000 schoolchildren and community members in Japan have signed a “Stop Extreme School Rules” petition. Signers demand that the federal government outlaw harmful and/or intrusive local school rules. Local rules require that all textbooks be brought home daily, mandate white underwear, ban winter clothing and scarves, and ban permed or dyed hair—-other than for students whose natural hair color is not black, who must therefore carry a certification card or dye it black. Many of the policies effectively single out children in mixed-race and refugee families for increased harassment.