Next generation needs climate change action

Some may be bored with climate change, but does the future of our children mean nothing to us, asks Peter Matheson.

Rather like Brexit, climate change has become a bit of a bore. We hear about it all the time, each version more alarming than the previous one.

We've just learnt that we have only a 12-year window before all hell breaks loose. Cheerful stuff! So no wonder we feel disheartened and focus instead on Christmas shopping.

As Chris Trotter said in his recent op-ed article, we know but just don't want to know.

But, wait a tick, who are ''we''?

''We'' are the senior brigade, at present calling the tune in society and state. We'll be dead and gone by the time the worst happens, so why make ourselves miserable in the limited time left to us?

The young see things very differently. Australia's media is full, as I write, of a novel strike by thousands of school pupils. The movement spread like wildfire from Melbourne into New South Wales, Queensland, West Australia. Pupils poured out of their classrooms throughout Australia.

Parents and teachers have been generally supportive. After all, as one pupil said, being on strike is itself an educative experience! The Aussie PM's denunciation only fired them up.

Here is Indigo Sangster, age 11: ''If we want to change history we have to get together and use our voices and our actions against this disastrous ecological fact.'' Her sister, Tilly: ''We need to show the politicians that it's not their world.''

Primary and high school pupils have found their voice in no uncertain fashion. They've been inspired by 15-year-old Swedish pupil Greta Thunberg. She sat for a fortnight outside the Stockholm Parliament. Her Climate Strike has now spread to numerous European countries.

Nota bene: this is an inter-generational issue. As Greta Thunberg says, only half her life will be over by 2050, when the best ecological models give out. Those in and with power, not only in politics, but in business, commerce, social life, the churches, are going to have to listen to this younger generation, which is impatient with party politics and moving to non-violent direct action. A sea of imaginative placards have messages for their elders: ''There is no Planet B''. ''We'd be at school if politicians were on to it.''

For those of us who are grandparents and parents the question is simply put. We may feel bored, but does the future of our children mean nothing to us? We need to shake off this convenient sense of disempowerment.

On a personal level all of us can do something: cut down on air travel or the symbolic plastic bags, work towards a more sustainable lifestyle. Faith communities, with their intergenerational constituencies, have a key role here.

Especially in Dunedin we have no reason to feel disempowered. Every ODT reader must now be aware of the danger to South Dunedin. Council, university, polytech and business all agree coal is on the way out and oil consumption must give way to renewable energy.

There is a growing army of committed folk in churches, schools and tertiary education. Nationally, under Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern the tide has turned.

Of course, vested interests still have to be challenged. Difficult questions have to be asked about the, as yet, sacrosanct area of tourism, so predatory on precious resources.

Australia's young pupils are inspiring. Like them we may have to flex our metaphorical muscles if the banks and the dairy industry fail to play ball. But be assured, whatever else the future holds, it's not going to be boring.

-Peter Matheson is a Dunedin historian

Comments

There are flaws in this thing they call climate change / so its no wonder some get bored with the idea/

 

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