Last Friday, I posted a tweet with a photo of my daughter and her friend, who were completely gripped watching the TED Talk by 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, before we headed out for the Youth Strike for Climate demonstration in Exeter. The strike saw thousands of schoolchildren all over England boycott school and attend demonstrations in anger about the failure of politicians to tackle the escalating climate crisis.
Normally I try and keep the girls away from the fear of the climate crisis we’re facing, they’re too young, but this had such a feeling of empowerment about it. Suddenly it was about them understanding it’s not just me, and my family and friends, who care about this issue. Personally, I’d be happy for them to strike every Friday. I think there’s a certain cynicism in adults because we’re worn down by it all, but I really feel that this movement could have a profound effect. I watched as my husband and father were moved to tears by Greta’s talk, when there is still such a taboo around men crying, and it gave me the greatest hope.
There’s always been this movement around climate change, but when I was young, everyone thought we were talking crap. I grew up in a commune and we were indoctrinated with it, in a way. It’s only just recently that people are starting to grasp it. When you think about it, every bit of environmental change we’ve seen in the past has been driven by individuals joining mass collective action, it never comes from the government.
There’s never been a human on earth who hasn’t worried about the end of the world. When we were little, it was the threat of nuclear war. Nowadays, it’s the climate crisis. It is scary but I don’t think you can get around that, and I don’t think we should. The most important thing about those demonstrations is for them to know that all across the world, people feel the same as them. You might be talking to the converted, but you’re also empowering the converted to know that they can change something. And you never know who else might see it, the strikes on Friday might alert someone to the movement they’ve been looking for.
I think the plastic issue has really captured people and opened their eyes to the environment beyond just the sea, I’m quite sure of that. At the march on Friday, it felt very powerful, and almost party-like. It felt like these kids were really going to do something, everyone there was invigorated by it. It was incredibly exciting. Our two girls weren’t wearing school uniform but some children around the country were and I think that’s fab. If my daughter wanted to wear her uniform next time she goes on strike, I’d be all for it.
One of the girl’s schools didn’t respond to the letter that her mum sent in, whereas my daughter’s school was encouraging of it, which was brilliant. Both girls now want to get Greta’s TED Talk screened in their schools, that’s the challenge they’ve set themselves.
It makes me weep to watch these children. Let’s put them in charge, they can only do better than the screw-up that is our current system.