Paralysed by Fear and Selfishness

In just over a week’s time, on March 15th, primary and secondary school students around the world concerned about climate change and the refusal of most politicians and business leaders to take it seriously, will be holding a series of School Strikes and other activities centred around climate change and the environment.

A Swedish student, Greta Thunberg, is credited with initiating the movement, which aims to give students around the world a voice in their future, even if they are too young to vote.

The movement is run by students and for students, and while parents, grandparents and other adults are encouraged to actively support their children and other students, it is the children who speak at the proposed rallies and work out their activities, not the adults.

While this may have some obvious drawbacks, it also has many advantages, not the least of which is that young students get to learn about politics, personal assertiveness and responsibility, and why their world operates in the way that it does.

At the very least, perhaps a few of these students might become the voices of sanity for tomorrow.

As a sixty-four year old grandparent, for many years I have been ashamed and appalled at the blatant stupidity, self-interest and destructive greed that so many in my generation have demonstrated in their attitudes towards the economy and the environment.

Through luck and hard work I am fortunate to own a small house, but unlike so many others of my age, I don’t also possess a string of rental properties, a holiday house, a whopping great caravan, a shiny new car, a generous superannuation policy, a share portfolio, or a swollen bank account.

When analysed objectively, nearly all of these assets have been acquired at someone else’s expense, if only at the expense of future generations who find themselves locked out of the housing market with mounting debts and uncertain employment prospects.

But even these economic problems pale into insignificance when the destructive impact of my generation’s greedy lifestyle is starting to manifest through rapidly accelerating climate change.

If it continues unchecked, I believe that massive climate change will result in the collapse of society as we currently know it within another three generations – approximately seventy-five years or less.

The children and school students of today should, at the very least, be absolutely outraged that in their lifetime, our greed and lack of concern for their future is very likely to condemn them to a living nightmare of climate chaos, food and water shortages, widespread infrastructure collapse and possible warfare.

In many parts of the world today – outside our currently comfortable Western societies – starvation, violence and anarchy are already the norm.

And yet our ignorance and complacence is such that the overwhelming majority of people in privileged countries like mine think that it simply couldn’t happen here: that kind of thing is a problem for ‘them over there’.

How naive, how stupid, and how arrogant.

Having three grandchildren of my own, and seeing at the very least as an opportunity to encourage them to think about climate change, politics and their future, I took it upon myself to publicise the rally by talking to friends and visiting local schools in my area.

The general response was remarkable, and deeply depressing.

Despite most schools routinely expressing their ‘support for the environment’, overall knowledge about the SchoolStrike was severely limited, and most principals of government schools back-pedalled rapidly when asked if they would publicise the event to their students or – even more radical – show support for the event as a school.

Fear of harming their career prospects, retirement benefits or government school funding was clearly paramount in their minds.

It was quite clear that they much preferred safe, ineffective ways of expressing their ‘concern’ for the environment by getting their students to plant vegetable gardens and paint murals of flowers and trees  – without discussing exactly why those vegetables and flowers and trees are under threat.

Imagine my disappointment then, when I was informed by my own family that they would not agree to my eldest granddaughter attending a school strike rally on the steps of our city’s Parliament House because they thought that the prospect of her missing four hours of schooling would be damaging for her education..

Much better, they said, for her to complete her education and work within the system to achieve action on climate change – thereby neatly regurgitating the destructive myths that our politicians are so keen to propagate.

How very sad to see the futures of our own children and grandchildren being squandered by those who should be supporting them.

How sad to see how deep the roots of fear and ignorance are within ourselves, stopping us from making the world a better place for the adults of the future.

How sad to see how corrupted and deluded we have become by the seductive evils of capitalism and the desperate urge to inflate our own egos.

And how depressing to realise that a person of my age is regarded as ‘radical’ by even members of my own family.

Go for it kids, and never, never give up.

The adults are too greedy and too gutless to do it for you – and you have absolutely nothing to lose except your future.

David Mellonie is an Australian author, editor and photographer. Read other articles by David.