Sixth-grader Ariel was the only student to protest in favor of environmental protections in her small coal-mining town of Chinchilla, Queensland in Australia.
While hordes of students and young people showed up in support of stronger environmental protections in the largest global strike of its kind to ever take place, there was one town that did not manage to garner as much manpower. In the conservative town os Chinchilla in Queensland, Australia, one lonely protestor, sixth-grader Ariel Ehlers, was the only one to attend the climate strike. This is a stark contrast to certain towns and cities where protestors showed up to fight against corporate and legal inaction regarding the Earth, global warming, and climate change in the thousands. This is especially problematic as Chinchilla is the center of the biggest coal seam gas fields in the country down under, reports The Daily Mail.
Her moving story first went viral when environmental enthusiast Drew Hutton took to social media platform Facebook in order to bring attention to Ariel's brave act. After all, in a conservative town where even the adults around her don't seem to care much about the environment, it can be daunting to be the only one stepping forward. Uploading a photo of her small but important act of resistance, Drew stated: In my old home town of Chinchilla one grade six student, Ariel Ehlers, carried out a one-person climate strike. What a champion! Chinchilla is the center of the biggest coal seam gas fields in the country.
Others, too, praised her simple yet effective act of courage. Toni Le Strange commented: Ariel, you’re an amazing girl! What an inspiration to others - you should be so very proud of being brave enough to stand up for your beliefs and principles. I have great admiration for your courage. Angela Hudson wrote: I know this town and I feel how much strength would have been needed to do this. I am in awe of you. This is magnificent. Tahlene Louise provided some much-needed motivation, stating: Beautiful girl. It only takes one person with a lot of courage and persistence to make [a] change. Go, girl. Ariel is now being called the Greta Thunberg of Chinchilla. As Anne Vanessa Kennedy noted: Absolutely! Our Greta Thunberg and our inspiration.
In an interview with local news publication Chinchilla News, Ariel stated, "I am pretty worried about what kind of world we're going to be living in when I am an adult. I decided to come down and join in the protest today even though I'm from a small town a long way from Brisbane, I knew I could still do something to make my stand for climate action. We can all make a big difference if we choose to make a stand together." She explained that she had even made a detailed PowerPoint presentation to increase awareness within other sixth graders in her school. "I did a PowerPoint presentation for my class a few weeks ago to discuss with them how climate change is already having a big impact on everyone's future," she shared. "I discussed lots of different ways we can all help contribute towards supporting the environment and reducing our carbon footprint."
While an estimated 300,000 Australians rose to the occasion and participated in the global climate strike, Chinchilla was on the fence about the whole issue. After all, the town mainly comprises climate change skeptics who have deeply benefitted from the coal boom. When looking at the after-effects of this boom, however, one is able to see a much darker and more tragic underbelly. As per a research study conducted by The University of Queensland, Chinchilla was a "quiet little town" before the coal boom. Between 2005 and 2006, housing prices in the area soared in an unprecedented due to an influx of coal mine workers. Moreover, from 2008 to 2012, the town's population jumped by a whopping 19 percent - only to rapidly decrease again when jobs began to dry up after major coal seam gas projects moved from construction to export phases. While Australia's government is largely conservative, there is hope that with enough lobbying from dedicated climate activists like Ariel, that the country can slow down global warming and build a better future for its children.