The Financial Express


Older generation in the dock

Climate activist Greta Thunberg speaking at a Fridays for Future march during the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow on November 5 this year –Reuters file photo Climate activist Greta Thunberg speaking at a Fridays for Future march during the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow on November 5 this year –Reuters file photo

Thousands of young climate activists from across the world gathered in Glasgow where the COP26, climate summit, is being held. Even children joined the protest marches skipping their classes. They have expressed concern over their governments' inaction in the face of the ever-worsening fallout from climate change. Some youths walked hundreds of miles to reach Glasgow in Scotland, the venue of the COP26, only to demonstrate how serious they are about the Glasgow climate event. Also, they want the world leaders, who gathered at the climate summit, to understand that they are being watched by the members of the younger generation. The world leaders who mostly represent the older generation have proved so far to be rather insensitive to the dangers of climate change. They are too habituated to their old ways to change them. It is not that they are unaware of the fact that life on earth is on the brink of extinction. They know it full well, but still cannot shake off the past three centuries' inertia of an economy that has been running on fossil fuel.  It is already hurting them and their children. The changes taking place in the global environment is irreversible. As of now, there is still some time in hand to take some damage control measures including burning less fossil fuel and using more renewable energy, drastically reducing further logging of trees from big forests like the Amazon rainforest, the Sundarbans mangrove forest and such like measures, called climate actions. The aim is to ensure that global warming, that is, the world's average temperature may not rise above a certain threshold (at present set below the ceiling of 2, or better 1.5 degrees Celsius, above what it was before the Industrial Revolution). The world leaders have been promising again and again since the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) came into effect in March, 1994 that they would maintain that temperature limit.  Meanwhile, the parties to the UN convention have met for the 26th time including the ongoing one. But no concrete action has been taken so far. So, why should the children allow such mindlessness on the part of their elders to continue?

 The youngsters, thanks to the information explosion, have been keenly following the developments in climate science. The prestigious science magazine, Nature, in an editorial of its October 20 issue observed: "Young people are reading and engaging with climate and biodiversity science and policy in a way that previous generations haven't." Youths including even those in their early teens joined up with the marchers protesting COP events as those have become a talking shop.

Greta Thunberg of Sweden, Spain's Becky Stoakes, who along with nine others walked more than 600 miles from Zaragoza to attend COP26 in Glasgow, Vanessa Nakate from Uganda and other angry youths from different parts of the world had the same message to convey: We are awake. You can no longer hoodwink us into believing your sham pledges!

The rise of climate activism by the youths is quite a phenomenon. True, throughout the ages the youths spearheaded movements for changes in society. In those movements, they had their adult leadership with their philosophies, ideas and their dreams. But the generation now marching through Glasgow streets, haranguing the world governments about their failure to live up to their word on climate action have no leader of that kind.

Yes, there are figures like Greta Thunberg. But they belong to a handful of angry youths who are more articulate than others. But unlike the traditional approach to leadership, which is a pyramidal hierarchy with the supreme leader at the top, it is a decentred, spontaneous one. And what they are conveying is basically anger, not a sermon, nor a structured, well-crafted oration with a worldview-- as is the characteristic of traditional leadership.  Their message is simple, not mincing their words, making it clear that they know the truth. Listen, for example, to Greta Thunberg: "We know that our emperors are naked."

The older generation has never been so exposed with their follies before their children. They must be ashamed and mend their ways and hand down a livable world to their children.


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