Tackling climate change has to be multi-generational
Already we’ve seen instances of inter-generational clashes over climate change. British Prime Minister, Theresa May, saying children would be better off in school learning their lessons rather than marching in the streets as part of the Climate Strike movement. Then there was the exchange that went viral between US Senator, Dianne Feinstein, and a group from the youth-led, The Sunrise Movement, who are shown yearning for action while she explains why matters are best left in her hands. And that’s not to mention the “dressing down” of world leaders on bearing responsibility for climate change in the first place and not doing nearly enough to address it, by the Swedish teen and founder of Climate Strike, Greta Thunberg, at this year’s World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland.
This polarization of opinions is inevitable given the different perspectives, and it is fueled by the belief that the stakes couldn’t be higher. Yet action needs to be shared. By virtue of having lived on the planet longer, older generations bear responsibility — not only for its current state — but also for fixing it because they hold the levers of power. The fact that the burden of the effects of climate change will fall disproportionately on younger generations when they have contributed to it the least means they are angry, they have more at stake and they have found their voice in fighting for their future. The reality is we need both the urgency felt by younger generations and the ability to wield the levers of change currently resting in the hands of older generations. And even they, in most cases, are seriously hampered — if not imprisoned — by financial, economic and political systems such that it will take a profound upheaval to mobilize for action on a scale and with a sense of urgency never before seen in human history.
Scientists tell us we have 11 years to make the changes necessary to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius to avoid catastrophic impacts from climate change. This encompasses the lifespan of the vast majority of the current human population not just the younger generations. We ALL need to get on with it — together. A good place to start would be to stop talking past one another.