The #fridaysforfuture climate strikes around the world have once again proven the fear, anxiety and anger rising amongst our generation about the future state of our planet. We have been inundated with an overwhelming amount of evidence of anthropogenic climate change which is being confirmed through the physical impacts already in motion such as extreme droughts, floods and storms. It is clear that we have to act now if we want a habitable future. But why is it then that we still have headlines like ‘UK to miss almost all of 2020 nature targets’ and ‘Fracking plan will release same C02 as 300m new cars’?
You would have thought that by now there would be some serious change to the way large firms and governments manage their environmental footprint. Unfortunately, that is far from the case. There have been some small changes occurring, of which I have reported on in the past and noted how small actions such as plastic straw bans and coffee cup charges are a ‘step in the right direction’, but I have come to realise that it is simply not enough. Changes to single-use plastics and the fast-fashion industry will certainly help, but our environmental issues don’t start and definitely don’t end with these small, consumer-level adjustments. A large part, or even the largest part, of the issue is to do with the policies and actions of governments and transnational corporations (like investments into the unsustainable and often unethical fossil fuels, palm oil and plastic industries, just to name a few).
John Lanchester explains how climate change is the most radical form of ‘intergenerational inequality’ that will be left for the younger generations to deal with. The intergenerational inequalities he talks of include problems such as pensions, housing prices and inflation, but the environmental effects that we will be left with are by far the most daunting. Additionally, Mary Robinson, the seventh President of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, states that by rejecting climate change, we are denying ‘the human rights for the most vulnerable people on the planet’.
I don’t think it is fair to say that the older generation doesn’t care, because a lot of inspirational people are currently campaigning for climate justice, such as Mary Robinson, but it is clear that those in power right now are not taking this seriously enough. Instead, they prioritise their financial self-interest. A ban on plastic straws is nowhere near the level of action needed to truly deal with climate change and, in some ways, it is an attempt by the government to seemingly address our environmental problems whilst not really addressing them at all. Maybe it is just their way of distracting us while they continue to ignore the main problem, but this is clearly not working. People (namely the youths) are getting fed up with the lack of concern.
When Theresa May responded to the February climate strike by saying that it was ‘a waste of lesson time,’ she clearly wasn’t getting the message; she wasn’t listening to what was being said. This can be responded to and summarised perfectly by what one student in the Paris youth strike was quoted saying:
“Should we remain seated in class for three hours this afternoon while we have no future? Pointless.”