COP26: children’s climate march hijacked by grim agenda
CHILDHOOD should be a largely joyful experience. It is the job of parents, of society as a whole, that children are largely protected from the evils of the world and can grow and develop in a calm and joyful environment.
Now, of course, there comes a time when they must begin a journey of discovery about how the world works and begin to exercise their responsibilities in accordance with that understanding.
It is also important to introduce the notion of leadership to children, especially adolescents, so that they can break cycles that must be broken, whether they are inherited from their parents or from society as a whole.
But we, as this generation of adults and this generation of leaders, should not demand that this next generation provide the solutions to the problems we have created.
Nowhere is this more true than in the heated debate over the climate emergency. Greta Thunberg, when asked to provide details on what she wanted world governments to do, said: “It has nothing to do with me.”
READ MORE: Inside COP26: My 24 Hours in the Belly of the Climate Summit
She is absolutely right. The fact that we are apparently relying on Miss Thunberg and her peers to pull the world out of the substantial hole we dug for this is a humiliating failure of leadership.
This leadership failure leads to deeply distressing evidence of anxiety among young people – the exact opposite of what childhood should be. Miss Thunberg said at the 2019 United Nations Climate Conference at the age of 16: “You stole my dreams and my childhood.”
I wasn’t inspired by it – I was upset. This is a young girl who, at the age of 11, stopped eating and speaking due to her anxiety about the lack of action by global governments on climate change, and was diagnosed Asperger’s, OCD and selective mutism. It is in many ways a tragic story.
I have four children under the age of 11 who, like their peers, are all very climate sensitive, and I absolutely don’t want climate anxiety to be in their future. Children should be interested, learn, cajole adults about the climate emergency. But they don’t have the answers. They are children.
The result of this reverse responsibility matrix is that tens of thousands of children are skipping school to participate in climate walks because adults have spent too much time doing too little.
Some of those adults are watching the steps closely – children should be in school, they say, especially after so much education time wasted during the Covid pandemic. They are not wrong, but they are missing a much bigger picture.
The big picture is that we are allowing these marches, ostensibly about climate change, to be hijacked and used for our children as part of the larger and rather sinister agenda of overthrowing capitalism.
With the exception of a few Communist dictators in a few poor and enslaved countries, no world leader claims that these problems are linked. Dominant leaders, left and right, understand that, far from being the problem, capitalism and the technological progress and innovation that is only possible in a market system is our only solution.
But every time a world leader bends over to this anti-capitalist narrative because he thinks it’s a good photo opportunity, he sends a smoky signal that he’s not really serious in fighting it. the climate emergency.
It is basically a problem of political short-termism. An issue where world leaders realize their lives are easier if they sign agreements for years far away and pretend to support the climate emergency in order to generate good public relations, than they would be if they did. really the heavy lifting required to “keep 1.5 alive” as the little note says.
Instead, they consider the worst impacts of climate change to be far enough away that they are long out of politics before the proverbial really hits fans. Leave it to the next guy, right?
This is not new and it is not limited to climate change. We see it in this country, most obviously, in the delivery of a range of public services. For example, talk to any politician privately and they will tell you that the current taxpayer funded pension model is clearly not sustainable. A growing retiree population whose state and public sector occupational pensions are paid by taxes by a decreasing proportion of the working-age population?
This is a square dowel and a round hole. There is no way out but a leader, at some point in the future tearing up the system and rebuilding it largely on the basis of self-funded retirement. But none of them want that in their manifesto. So they leave it to the next guy.
The NHS provides us with another example. Politicians, north and south of the border, know that the gulf between public expectations and the ability to deliver is seismic. They know that this unique British model is indeed already dead and that we will continue to fall behind our European neighbors in terms of health outcomes. But none of them want that in their manifesto. So they leave it to the next guy.
Climate change has been left to the next guy over and over again. But we’re dangerously close to the point where time is running out to get the ball back.
Our current leaders may be the first to be in the crosshairs; in the line of blame. With this horrible, agonizing and hard-hitting discussions must take place with the electorate. Significantly higher energy prices for years. An accelerated and costly change to our home heating infrastructure. Taxes at a higher level than most workers are used to or feel comfortable with for some time.
In this endeavor, Miss Thunberg has some great advice when she says we don’t just need goals for 2030 or 2050, we need goals for now. She hit that particular nail on the head. It’s far too easy for adults today to think of a change by 2030 or 2050 as someone else’s problem.
We all need to do more now. Individuals and families driven by government policy. Companies that innovate to protect their future and ours. The longer the transition, the more orderly, structured and affordable it will be.
Our leaders must help us leave solutions rather than problems for our children. So that they can enjoy just being kids, like we did.
Andy Maciver is Director of Message Matters
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