- There is desperation under the wisdom
The war for a liveable climate is the most important war we’ll ever fight. And our flag-bearer is a 16-year old autistic girl with braided hair.
Does this upset you, dearest uncle? Are the corners of your mouth already twitching; eyes narrowing or rolling, not sure whether to be outraged or amused by the absurdity of this suggestion?
Greta Thunberg, the face of Generation X environmentalists, is younger than my uncle’s arthritis, and probably no less irritating to him either. At the age of 15, Greta began skipping school to sit outside the Swedish parliament– often by herself– to call for urgent action against climate change. It didn’t take her long to become somewhat of an icon for change, inspiring climate protests across the world. Under-developed countries like Pakistan generally– and unwisely– stay clear of the climate debate, assuming that it’s a matter for wealthier countries to tackle. This is not entirely unreasonable, as countries like Australia (16.2 metric tonnes), Saudi Arabia (16.3), and the US (15.0) have significantly higher carbon emissions per capita than Pakistan (0.9). Unfortunately, rising sea levels will not met out their punishment to each country in fair proportion to its contribution of carbon dioxide. For the sake of our own coastline, it would be inadvisable for Pakistan to retreat from the dialogue on climate change.
Pakistanis responded to the call for global protests on Friday, 20 September, with protests across 26 cities and towns, including Mardan, Mithi, Thatta, Kasur, Kotli, Chagai, Qilla Abdullah, Peshawar, Gilgit and Chitral.
Greta Thunberg’s successful activism gives tremendous hope to those on the side of environmental conservation. Her success frightens evil corporations and their right-wing political lackeys, who are displeased with the replacement of poorly-understood numbers and statistics from climate science, with the face of a strong-willed human child. My use of the word ‘evil’ here must not be mistaken for hyperbole. In an average storybook, anyone attempting to maximise profits while wilfully endangering wildlife and the lives of billions of people, would be called ‘evil’ without much thought. Captain Planet had to be inspired by something, surely.
Across the Atlantic in Canada, Autumn Peltier– an indigenous 15-year-old activist of the Wikwemikong First Nation– has been moving mountains to make way for the climate conservation movement. An official “water protector,” she fights for universal clean drinking water. Specifically, she advocates for safe waterways and drinking water for indigenous peoples in Canada and beyond.
These ‘little girls’ wade through a deluge of old men’s tears, because they must. Scoff if you must, but the “selfie” generation will inherit a dying world beyond their capacity to save, if old men in high government and corporate offices don’t radically change ways. It shouldn’t be too hard to understand why they’re marching
Young people across the world have been catalysing the movement in their own unique ways. Timoci Naulusala, 12-year-old boy from Fiji, made waves on the world stage with his inspiring speech at the UN’s COP23 climate conference in Bonn, Germany. Ridhima Pandey, a nine-year-old Indian activist, produced a 52-page petition before the National Green Tribunal on her government’s failure to tackle climate change. Xiuhtezcatl, aged 17, is the youth director of ‘Earth Guardians’, an international organisation that works to contain coal ashes and get pesticides out of parks. Shalvi Sakshi, aged 11, captured the world’s imagination with her speeches on climate action. Jaden Anthony, also aged 11, is the author of Kid Brooklyn, a graphic novel series that raises awareness on climate challenges and other social issues.
Young people, particularly Generation X, is spearheading the climate conservation movement because they are the ones who have the most to lose from man-made climate change. My uncle and I will be long gone before the first cities begin disappearing underwater; before climate refugees begin mobilising in millions, possibly billions; before the elements that we breathe, drink, and grow our crops in, turn against us. It’s easier for the older generation aged 40 and above– those who hold the greatest financial power and political clout– to speak of climate change as a theoretical problem, and grumble at “aaj kal ke bachay” (“kids today”) who are being ushered into catastrophe by our bloody, wrinkled hands. But this is one area where “aaj kal ke bachay” may be excused for being fiercely disobedient.
These ‘little girls’ wade through a deluge of old men’s tears, because they must. Girls like Greta, Malala, and Sakshi have endured endless criticism from the older generation; those who dismiss these young people’s struggles as trivial, because in their mind, everything that young people– particularly girls– do, is trivial. Scoff if you must, but the “selfie” generation will inherit a dying world beyond their capacity to save, if old men in high government and corporate offices don’t radically change ways. It shouldn’t be too hard to understand why they’re marching.
We don’t need an inter-generational conflict among over-inflated egos. If today’s kids are intelligent, environmentally-conscious, politically-active, and socially-sensitive, the boomer generation is free to take credit for this achievement rather than disputing it. You raised us, uncle. Would you prefer to believe you did a poor job? Or would you prefer the contentment of knowing that the young are smarter and more capable than the old, which is the very definition of ‘human progress’?