In perhaps what is the most searing indictment of us adults, the kids are taking us on. And in the best way possible. Where we, the generations preceding them, have blustered through our lives on this planet without really bothering about it, and the damage we are wrecking upon it, our kids are hell bent on trying to set things right. It makes sense, they are the ones who will have to live through the repercussions of our selfishness.
Last summer one lone teen stood up to protest against climate change, protesting outside the Swedish Parliament. This year, thousands, nay millions, have joined with her around the world to protest against governments, political leaders and industry heads, calling out their lack of will and desire to enforce norms that would help control the catastrophic climate change we are heading towards.
Greta Thunberg, the teen who administered the spiked boot to the rear of our collective conscience, is an unlikely crusader. Asperger’s syndrome, a teen, a girl, she ticks most of the boxes to have her voice go unheard. If she can, through sheer grit and determination, make herself heard, shame on us for not having even tried. This also goes to prove that a voice raised with enough passion for a cause will not go unheard. That, the urgency in an appeal from a person who has no vested interest, except perhaps survival, will find resonance in those who listen to her.
Greta Thunberg, the teen who administered the spiked boot to the rear of our collective conscience, is an unlikely crusader. Asperger’s syndrome, a teen, a girl, she ticks most of the boxes to have her voice go unheard.
“I think enough people have realised just how absurd the situation is. We are in the middle of the biggest crisis in human history and basically nothing is being done to prevent it. I think what we are seeing is the beginning of great changes and that is very hopeful,” she wrote.
Thunberg was perhaps the lit match in a pile of dry hay. The conflagration spread far and wide. She spoke at the UN climate change conference roundly ticking off all the governmental heads in attendance for behaving like “irresponsible children.” She was similarly scathing when she spoke at Davos recently. Extinction Rebellion, 350.org and Greenpeace have all aligned with her. School strikes have happened across the globe, scientists have supported these children who are protesting, and their voices, and because they are the ones to deal with the complete and utter mess we have created, are not piping down. The world leaders are listening.
To quote Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org in The Guardian, “The movement that Greta launched is one of the most hopeful things in my 30 years of working on the climate question. It throws the generational challenge of global warming into its sharpest relief, and challenges adults to prove they are, actually, adults. So many thanks to all the young people who are stepping up.”
As parents, and as a parent myself, I can say we behaved selfishly. As humans in the midst of a mass extinction, and hurrying it along with our actions, we behaved even more selfishly.
That the kids are protesting what we didn’t is a wakeup call. That we played with the ramifications of climate change on their lives is a searing indictment about the wantonness with which we consumed, burned, travelled, with not a care about what we were going to leave behind and what they would need to deal with once we were gone. As parents, and as a parent myself, I can say we behaved selfishly. As humans in the midst of a mass extinction, and hurrying it along with our actions, we behaved even more selfishly. We used up most of the resources of this planet. We procreated without thought of how the next generation would survive on a planet that we were making inhospitable without a second thought.
There is an entire movement of people who will not have children because of where the Earth is headed. They have their valid reasons. The picture ahead is not something we’d like to think of. Global warming. Climate change. Water wars. Ecological disasters. Food scarcity. Toxic pollution. It is happening already. Insect extinctions. Wildfires. Unpredictable climate. Ice shelves calving. Polar ice caps melting. Climate Change Refugees. We are looking on in horror, unable to comprehend how we can set things right, and in our hopelessness, doing nothing all to make sure that we set things right. We are pushing this planet to extinction, forgetting completely that we have no Plan B.
But there is a silver lining, buried beneath all this parental self flagellation. Perhaps, we have brought the kids up right. Perhaps we have brought up a generation that is invested, involved, empathetic and courageous enough to do what we haven’t.
It took the kids to stand up. It took one child to shake us up. It took children across the world walking out of the school rooms and telling us, clearly and loudly, that they were not going to accept the mess we’d made and we had better clean it up. As a parent, when most of our parenting is teaching our kids to be responsible and to tidy up after themselves, we haven’t exactly been setting the right example and walking the talk, have we? But there is a silver lining, buried beneath all this parental self flagellation. Perhaps, we have brought the kids up right. Perhaps we have brought up a generation that is invested, involved, empathetic and courageous enough to do what we haven’t. That our children will do what we haven’t. That our children will defy our slothful consumerist legacy, and take us back to a more rational and balanced way of living that puts the planet first.
The kids are holding up a mirror for us to look at ourselves. The reflection is not pretty, it can make us wince. Perhaps it’s high time we let the children lead us and learn from them. And perhaps it is high time we adults did adult.
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Kiran Manral is the Ideas Editor at SheThePeople.TV