youth climate strike…

Moira, Ruth, Felix and I (plus lots of friends we bumped into) joined Iris and her schoolfriends at College Green, Bristol at today’s Youth Climate Strike (and I know that Hannah+Ursa took part in a demonstration at Ursa’s school).
It was probably the biggest demonstration I’ve attended in our city (10,000, according to YouthStrike4Climate).
It was a global day of protest. It had been publicised weeks in advance… and, by the look of the television/newspaper/social media pictures I’ve seen, an amazing number of people from almost 150 countries turned out to make a stand and to demand urgent action from politicians before it’s too late.
It was an important, impressive, humbling day of protest.
My own generation are the guilty ones. Some of the guilt comes from lack of awareness, but much can be put down to people’s selfishness and greed.
Saying sorry isn’t enough. Obviously.

The frightening, depressing thing is that, even today (when we know so much more about climate change and its causes), some corporations, some politicians and some individuals are STILL turning a blind eye to the stark realities of the climate crisis… and putting off making crucial decisions on the basis of “promising to deal with the problem, once we’ve done X or Y”… or “it’ll be another politician’s job when I move on so, for time being, I’m not going to put the my head above the parapet (and, in the meantime, just feather my nest)”.
Clearly, some politicians feel passionately about climate change but, in all honesty, it seems that those in power (including Environment Secretaries) are simply prepared to pay lip service to the problem.

In a strange way, for some, today’s protest in Bristol was something of a metaphor for the Climate Crisis… “Climate Crisis? What Climate Crisis?” and perhaps “It’s not really going to affect me in my lifetime… I can’t do anything to change it, so I’ll ignore it”.
Three examples:
1.  We were walking into Bristol this morning with our banners/placards and a very pleasant young lady approached us to ask “what’s going on?”. “We’re going to the Youth Climate demonstration in town” we replied. The woman clearly didn’t know what we were talking about. “Have you heard of the 16 year-old Swedish environmental campaigner Greta Thunberg?” we asked. Completely blank response. “Climate Change?” Still nothing. She smiled and wished us well and we continued on our way (somewhat perplexed).
2.  Maybe I live in a bubble, but people had been talking about today’s demonstration for ‘some time’ (and especially over the past week). Surely, it would have been obvious to anyone who knew our city that there would be a large demonstration. It would have been talked about/referred to relentlessly over recent days on local radio and in local newspapers, social media etc etc. Silly me! Clearly, LOTS of motorists (mainly private cars and vans – although the local bus company obviously just ‘gave up’ until the streets returned to ‘normal’… with passengers abandoning their journeys) hadn’t a clue. Why on earth would you even dream of driving into the city centre at a time to coincide with a MASSIVE demonstration involving thousands of people? Well, let me tell you, they were there in their hundreds (thousands?)… with most of the drivers looking bewildered and frustrated. Ridiculous.
3.  This is somewhat similar to (2). Demonstrators had set off on their march around the city on a pre-planned route. Clearly, as we took to the roads, traffic came to an utter standstill. Some drivers blatantly refused to accept that they would be ‘inconvenienced’ for perhaps half an hour at the very least (there were an awful lot of people!) and kept their engines running. Very bad move… resulting in a long line of marchers chanting “engine off, engine off” as they walked past you. Humiliation. But, hey, I digress… one of these cars just happened to be a taxi… with a passenger (silly man had still to realise it would be quicker to walk)… and the meter still appeared to be running! It felt a bit like an encapsulation of the climate crisis itself – the clock is ticking and it’s now too late to do anything about it.

No doubt, we’ll hear from world leaders (there are always some exceptions… no names!) who will be applauding the enthusiasm and effectiveness of the demonstrators and will be promising to take action to do ‘stuff’. But, of course, we know it’s all hot air… pie-in-the-sky promises. Governments will NOT put their heads together at the Climate Action Summit in New York on 23 September and commit themselves to making the huge carbon dioxide reductions that are urgently needed. They’ll agree on something that ‘sounds’ quite positive (for media purposes) but, actually they’ll be saying things: “well, we’d LIKE to do more, but country A doesn’t want to play ball, so neither will we – because we don’t them to have a commercial advantage”.

The scary thing (and there are LOTS of scary things relating to Climate Change) is that, after a day of worldwide demonstrations – which will no doubt earn praise and acknowledgement from national leaders – people will feel a little like Greta Thunberg, when she addressed the Senate Climate Change Task Force earlier this week:
“Please save your praise. We don’t want it. Don’t invite us here to just tell us how inspiring we are without actually doing anything about it because it doesn’t lead to anything.
If you want advice for what you should do, invite scientists, ask scientists for their expertise. We don’t want to be heard. We want the science to be heard.
I know you are trying, but just not hard enough. Sorry.”

Action, not words… now, not soon.