Doomsday, global unrest or hope? How our children can trigger climate change reversal
What started as an individual’s action against climate change is now a global movement. In August 2018, Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg), a 15-year old from Sweden, spent Fridays in front of the Swedish parliament striking for climate change actions. She was really depressed about and disillusioned with the lack of actions and attitude her government had about climate change. So, she decided to take action on her own. Her action inspired thousands of schoolchildren around the world to do the same. You might call this the “Butterfly Effect”.
There are now Friday climate change strikes in over 400 cities around the world. Check out the map of all the cities with active movements. The most recent ones in UK, Brussels, and Paris attracted thousands of children. Their main reason for striking: save their own future. Unlike most adults in power, the children are really scared about the 12-year warning scientists gave humanity to fix its mess. Children are concerned with the inaction and, in some places like US, with reverting to technology that increases pollution (like use of coal power) and reneging on the previous stricter environmental laws and regulations.
What the children are asking politicians is to listen to scientists and enact new laws that will reduce the impact of climate change (like accelerating integration of renewables and decommissioning all coal-based power plants, accelerating the electrification of transportation, and imposing stricter rules and regulations coupled with higher fines for any non-compliant company).
While ignored and ridiculed originally, now the children behind climate strikes are taken seriously. Greta’s own viral speeches at the UN, World Economic Forum, and this week in Brusselsput politicians on defensive. One positive outcome was forcing EU’s Juncker to promise that “In the next financial period, 2021 to 2027, every fourth euro spent within the EU budget will go towards climate mitigation actions”.
Taking her example, students around the world are pressing their local politicians to take action. It doesn’t always go well, as we’ve seen the exchange between Sen. Feinstein (@SenFeinstein) of California and a group of schoolchildren from Sunrise Movement (@sunrisemvmt). The children asked her to support the Green New Deal. Her response that she was not going to be bullied into it, and that she knows what she’s doing because she’s been doing it for over 30 years quickly backfired. The kids pointed out to her that was precisely the problem: not taking action for the past 30 years and continuing the same policy with no real solution on sight.
As a society, it’s pretty sad to have to rely on teenagers to change the doomsday course of the planet. As adults, we have a huge responsibility to make sure we leave this planet better than we inherited. So far, we made it worse rather than better. There is still a redeeming opportunity for us: joining the children, supporting them, and most importantly taking immediate, drastic actions to avoid a total collapse of civilization and destruction of the planet. Continuing to deny it – like most, older politicians, the current administration, some companies and lobbysts are doing – will only lead to two possible outcomes: a total destruction or a general strike and global social unrest.
If we believe historical trends, most radical technological and societal changes were triggered by young people. University students have been at the forefront of all major revolutions in history. But never has been the age of the revolutionaries so low as it is now – middle school and high school children. Technology gives them a clear advantage: they organize using social media faster, quicker, and in larger numbers. And they use it to make public reactions like Sen. Feinstein’s and to increase awareness of the impact of climate change.
I have hope that, with them leading the charge, we can turn the tide around. We might not be able to reverse some damage (like the species that have already become extinct) but might be able to slow down and eliminate future damage (like reversing this weeksEPA’s ruling to allow insecticides that will kill millions of bees).
The question is: what immediate action are we individually willing and ready to take? Fix this image of happy kids in your mind and always remember their smiles.