Youth Climate Strike Manchester – What Do I Tell The Grandchildren ?
On Friday September 20th 2019 there was a Youth Climate Strike in Manchester. This was one event of many which took place around the world inspired by the action of Greta Thunberg, a sixteen year old girl who had the courage to speak truth to power. In August 2018 she refused to go into school and set up camp outside the Swedish parliament demanding that they take stronger action on the climate breakdown which is unfolding.
The Youth Climate Strike grew as more and more young people at the beginning of their lives are starting to object to the costs, harms and damages which are being passed down to their generation and beyond by the casual destruction of the environment and unsustainable consumption of resources.
I have heard many responses to Ms Thunberg and had many conversations. I have listened to the dismissals and accounts that it is a fad based on pseudo-science. I have listened to the ‘it-is-nothing-to-do-with-me’ perspectives and the ‘if-only-the-world-worked-that-way’… I have listened to the cognitive dissonance in myself as I try and deal with what my response is to be.
Ultimately the thing which influences me to think about my behaviour and my response to environmental breakdown is the responsibility I have to the two children I am guardian to. What do I tell them that I did when I saw the various disasters unfolding ? What do I tell your grandchildren ?
A friend tells me that climate change is not scientific consensus and that sun spots could account for the fluctuations in earths temperature rather than the production of greenhouse gases. I asked him about the evidence that underpinned this and a conversation was opened up to explore together what science reporting has been done to analyse this idea. Here is a website which I have used to learn about the issue so I can discuss it more; in particular, I am reluctant to present anything forward into conversation unless an article tells me where it is getting its information.
For this reason I find the large bulk of what gets proposed as journalism as entertainment as I come away from it without any means to analyse what has been proposed. As a result I dont see TV and newspapers, magazines and periodicals as not to be considered reliable sources of information.
Some examples where online newspapers provide a link to a document they are reporting on or magazines which provide a discrete list of bibliographic sources which I can go and make my own sense of, I do regard as reliable information sources – for this reason.
All this sounds like hard work – checking the details of what was said in the pub or what I would like to believe before I say it as a position myself. ‘Are conversations meant to be that demanding ?’ another friend said. I thought about that and in light of what is at stake, I think yes. Learning the proofs behind the beliefs we hold I see as a responsibility especially highlighted when I promote my beliefs openly in social exchange.
So, let me think about an example of whether the earth is flat or not. What are the proofs and evidences ? What backs up the belief that earth is a planet which is revolving around a sun with several other planets in a universe ?… Spending some time investigating what I believe to check if what I believe is true is a part of a duty before I argue points in casual conversation (particularly with alcohol or other social lubricants).
So coming back to seeing thousands and thousands of youths walking out of their schools in protest that not enough is being done to deal with the climate crisis which is taking place, what do I do as a forty something bloke ? I went along and I decided to record the historical event and listen to – not talk at – people who are younger than me. In that kind of dialogue, as it invariably becomes an interaction, I learn a lot.
The population who so often get denigrated euphemistically as ‘children’ are individuals who two hundred years ago would be regarded as adults, given jobs in mills, factories, mines (etc), and would be understood and expected to do complex tasks in coordination with others. It is little wonder to me that the younger generations are speaking with outrage about the dementalisation process they are suffering from.
It is patronising in the worst way to ignore or belittle the Youth Climate Strike and any civic activity which younger people undertake; not to mention exposing their talents and thoughts to seasoned ignorance. I saw not just a diversity of issues which where being aired on the strike but a supporting consensus of a large range of older generations who took part in solidarity. Climate crisis may have headlined but the petitioning on the importance of many issues which intersect in the environment was happening.
Whilst petrochemicals and energy usage is driving up the amount of carbon dioxide being put into the atmosphere, the rise in CO2 is tethered to a consumptive way of living on the planet – one which is deforesting vast lands, polluting the air we breathe and exterminating in totality thousands of species never to be seen again.
These things are tied together; the world is. The youths growing up have fewer and fewer places in the real world to play and socialise; our habitat has been taken over by tarmac roads and automobile culture which besides putting out lots of carbon dioxide is killing thousands of people a year in the UK for euphemistic ‘convenience’. According to the House of Commons report on Improving air quality “Air pollution cuts short an estimated 40,000 lives across the country each year, costing the UK an annual £20 billion. Children, the elderly, and those with existing medical conditions are at the greatest risk”.
We are now facing a series of disasters woven together through our lives; eating meat has been dangerously fetishised and as a result the practice is disastrous because of the damage that industrial farming practices have on the terrain, environment, animals and consumers…
Anyway, what do I tell my grandchildren about what I did when this all happened ? Do I say that I had a few conversations in the pub, I watched a few documentaries when they were passing and I thought it was all a bit political, a bit confusing, a bun fight ? Or do I say I at least learned about the realities of the issues by putting effort in to make my own mind up ?
More than half my life is over and whilst it seems amazing to be able to get cheap flights to Spain or wherever, cheaper than train tickets to places within the country I live, I know that the costs of me doing that will be dealt with by future generations and by the poorest communities in the world.
The darkest response I have encountered is the casual ‘we need Malthusian Catastrophe‘. This person I suspect has a number of ways to justify the euphemistic ‘getting ahead’ whereby they might contribute to a long term disaster so that they can have fun now. Do the ‘work’ to get ahead now and when they retire ‘do something nice for the commuity’…
Well, what do I say ? I will say that I gave up meat (and became a better cook for it); I elected not to ever own a car (due to the pollution in terms of space, noise, pure toxicity and antisocial nature of the effects); I will say that I chose not to take flights; I will say that I chose not to work in the office or canteen of the death star so that I could get a convenient salary; I will say that all this took time thinking and acting so that I actively tried not to dump all the clean up operations and costs on them.
As with many generations of teenagers and younger, I think they have a right to be angry and support them in their anger. Their habitat and place on the earth is being squandered by a legacy culture of thoughtless consumption. Not just the earth but we, one day, will be in their hands as many of them emulate what they have encountered. Seeing everything that day did inspire me to continue trying to be thoughtful and I appreciate all that they are doing through action.