Over 50 students from St Mary’s Menston High School, Menston, took part in an event organised by the Leeds Diocesan Justice & Peace Commission on Thursday 7th March. It was an ‘Inter-generational conversation about Climate Change’. Facilitated by the Commission Chair, John Battle, the panel consisted of two students from the school (Hannah Jenkins from Year 9 and Tom Allan from year 12) along with Kay Pierce from the Good Shepherd church community in Mytholmroyd and Andy Challinor (Professor of Climate Change Impacts at the University of Leeds) who attends Our Lady of Kirkstall parish in Leeds.

people at event
Andy Challinor speaks about the urgency for action on Climate Change

John Battle commented “Climate Change issues are often presented in the media as older generations vs younger generations. We wanted to explore whether this was the case and whether having a panel of people made up of different generations is a useful way of exploring this key issue”.

The first question to the panel was to ask them whether they thought action by individuals was more important than taking political action. They were all in agreement that individual action was important – no matter how small an action it might seem – but that Climate Change needed political action as well.
In relation to guidance from the Church about Climate Change, members of the panel felt that whilst Pope Francis has spoken out clearly, Climate Change was not something that came up in local churches very often. When John asked the audience how many had heard of “Laudato Si” only about half raised their hands.
As the discussion progressed it moved more and more from the panel itself to student audience members offering their own views about topics. This was especially the case when there was a question about the student strikes for Climate Change. Interestingly, there was a definite split between those students who thought they were necessary and those who thought it was not the right thing to do. The older members of the panel all thought they were a good idea!

After thanking Darren Beardsley, headteacher, and Julia Findlay, Lay Chaplain, John commented that “It was fantastic to have such engagement from so many of you today. Climate Change is an issue that affects all of us now. Andy Challinor reminded us that we have a short period of time to take more action globally before the consequences become much more serious. For that to happen we will need all generations to work together to ensure our politicians are held accountable for the actions that we must take at a national and international level.