“We need a whole new way of thinking. The political system that adults have created is all about competition. You cheat when you can because all that matters is to win… we need to start co-operating and sharing the remaining resources of this planet in a fair way.”
Wow. And I thought MY teenage daughter was cool. Imagine being Greta Thunberg’s parents — you’d be unconscious on the floor, passed out with pride. What a voice for Gen Z — that yellow raincoat, those plaits, the wide-open face. Her clear, urgent message. Her utter impatience and contempt for the idiotic responses of adults to the fact that our present is destroying her future; she is fearless, righteous, a climate catastrophe Katniss Everdeen.
And she is making stuff happen. The last school strike saw 1.4 million kids from 2,233 towns in 128 countries walk out of double maths to march through the streets in an effort to show adults that they would quite like to inherit a viable planet with air and water and trees and animals, rather than a toxic lump of dust choked with plastic bottles and polystyrene burger cartons.
Which hardly seems unreasonable.
You’d think though, from all the letters home from school, that the climate strikes inspired by Greta Thunberg were a call for kids everywhere to burn down school staff rooms with all the teachers locked inside, to blow up the science building, set fire to the toilets.
Letters littered with snarky inverted commas and use of the term so-called, as though school administrators were describing so- called ‘Islamic State’ instead of so-called ‘school climate strikes’, flopped through letterboxes. Heavily-worded emails, pompous as bishops, warning of the dire consequences of kids leaving lessons to gather and protest about the future existence of life on the planet. Specifically, their lives, on this planet.
Obviously, education — and the daily safeguarding of students — is high on the list of any school’s raison d’etre, but you can see how Greta and the other 1.4 million kids might have wanted to bunk off: there’s not much point in memorising theorems or the wives of Henry VIII if we’re all going to die from climate catastrophe, as thepeople in Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe are doing right now, this minute, as you read this.
You can understand Greta’s sense of urgency, of frustration. We really are fiddling as Rome — and everywhere else — burns. Distracting ourselves with all the crap that will be rendered meaningless once we have run out of the basics — and by basics, I don’t mean the less good olive oil or an inalienable right to consume dead animals for lunch, but basics as in air and water. But look, Brexit! Trump! War! Instagram!
By the time climate catastrophe impacts on life in the temperate north, we’ll hopefully be dead from old age. Our kids, and our kids’ kids, won’t be.
But Greta doesn’t want hope, or optimism — she wants action. And she wants it now.