A letter to the students striking for climate change
On Friday, 15th Match 2019 you went on strike. You decided to join your fellow students in a large scale protest against the global governments handling of the looming environmental disaster that we all know we are facing.
As I walked around Dublin city center on that Friday morning I felt overwhelmed with hope. A feeling I don't feel all that often. It was amazing to see so many young people rallying against a very really and very destructive threat.
The generation that raised you has failed to do what was necessary to avoid catastrophe, as have my generation. In fact, over the last thirty years we have produced more carbon, and pumped it into our atmosphere, than the entirety of human history that preceded us.
What's worse is we knew. The science was there (just Google Al Gore and his book 'Earth in the Balance' from 1992) and it was clear.
We failed to act, but it is you and your children that will pay the price for our inaction.
Every country in the world, bar one or two (Checkout this climate action tracker), is failing to meet the carbon emission targets agreed upon in the Paris agreement - a ceremony that showed an apparent and unprecedented unity across nearly every country in the world.
However if they all fail to meet to the agreed upon targets then it was nothing more than a nice day out for world leaders, so they could all pat each other on the back for giving the illusion that they understand the impact of what is to come, and care enough to make a difference.
A week on from those protests and there is no mention of what you did in the mainstream media. I scanned through the front pages of several large news sites (in Ireland) and found nothing. In fact there was nothing about climate change at all.
I found one article that showed a Koala bear refusing to leave and air conditioned car, presumably due to the extreme heat outside. Interestingly, it was presented as cute, despite the fact that it won’t be long before humans will not be able to survive at all in Australia.
Another article covered a recent flood in Mozambique. At least 250 dead and 400,000 left homeless. This is no longer an extreme weather ‘event’, it’s the new normal. Oh and this article did not mention the words climate and change.
So how do you sustain the movement that you joined on that Friday afternoon in March of 2019? How do you proceed in a world that seems happy to live in denial and willful ignorance?
Your protest was the first step. You showed the world that you understand the challenges that your generation will likely face as the planet warms and that you want to tackle them.
However, it’s important to remember that your environment does not care about your words, your protests or your intentions.
What really matters is your actions.
Now is the time to show that you weren't just in it for the day off school. You must feed this understanding of climate change into your day to day lives.
You need to stop buying cheap fast fashion clothing. Instead buy sustainably produced clothing. And while you're at it, buy less of it. Look after what you've got a stop worrying about chasing fashion trends. Understand that your clothes will be the least of your concerns when climate induced famine, drought, disease and war arrive.
You also need to change the way you eat. Stop consuming food that comes wrapped in plastic. Seek locally produced sustainable food. Reduce the amount of meat you eat. Avoid processed food and fast food altogether. Eat your vegetables.
Think about the fact that most supermarkets stock bananas wrapped in plastic. Fruit that literally comes pre-wrapped by nature is wrapped in plastic.
You need to tell your parents too - because they clearly don't understand. Ask why they bring home so much plastic from the supermarket. Ask if there is an alternative.
You need to stop buying a new iPhone every year. Demand that the providers of your technology provide upgrade options. That your phones come with replaceable parts.
You need to educate yourself. Understand the global supply chain. Understand where your stuff comes from and the impact its production has on the environment and the people producing it. Understand that recycling is not enough, that everything you recycle had to be produced in the first place. The damage has been done by the time you hit the recycling bin.
You need to get your head out of the daily distraction. Social media and soap opera levels of partisan politics. Celebrity scandals and online shaming. Extremism in all its forms. Focus instead on the lives you are living. The damage you are doing. The changes you can make.
Finally, continue to demand that your government educates themselves on the grim reality that is hurtling towards us.
Nothing else matters right now.
I was in my mid twenties before I started to understand this stuff and in my thirties before I started to buy sustainable clothing and reduce my overall consumption. You have a chance to get a head start now and you need to take it.
Before you do anything you should read the following books:
The Uninhabitable Earth: A Story of the Future by David Wallace-Wells
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive by Jared Diamond
Eating animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
Buy them, get your parents to buy them (and read them too), go to your library - what ever it takes. Hell, email me and I will buy you a copy - The Uninhabitable Earth just needs to be read.
Then take a look at this video from the inspirational Bea Johnson and learn how you can reduce your impact on your environment.
Arm yourself with information.
Educate those who downplay the severity of the situation.
Use your votes when you get them.
Vote for sustainability with your money.
Lead by example.