By Leo Quartermain
"We have the choice to lower the cost now, because I can tell you the cost of pursuing a Green New Deal will be far less than the cost of not passing it."
- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
It is time to stop being hesitant about the effects of climate change. It is the biggest threat facing the planet and it will kill people. I will not bore you with the lengthy science of climate change - we all know that each year the planet gets hotter, extreme weather events are becoming far more common and the seasons are shifting. There is only one fact we should focus on: time is running out and faster than we realise. Global carbon pollution must be cut in half in the next 10 years for us to avoid catastrophic, irreversible damage to the planet. We are already seeing this damage take its toll on the planet, like the repeated wildfires in California and Australia.
What is more pressing is the silence on climate change, and how we treat those, like Extinction Rebellion, who try to do something. While their methods may be extreme and often seen as disengaging (like firing fake blood at the UK Treasury), at least they’re doing something. By dismissing XR, people are not providing a credible alternative to the narrative, therefore letting others control it. These include XR, with performative activism that will turn people away, and deniers, who will rapidly spread misinformation that will damage the cause, and therefore the planet. There is no way to be nice about it - our silence is allowing the problem to get worse.
The planet is dying, there is no time to wait. We all must make climate change the topic of the day, whether that is at the dinner table, the classroom, online or at a protest. If we do not, we risk civilisation as we know it. Through this action, we can begin to build up a movement with climate change at its heart, which is what we need. People have died and will continue to die if we do not act now. This is an unarguable fact.
The top of societal structures, of course, have a huge part to play in this too. All UK political parties had obvious weaknesses in their climate change plans during the 2019 UK election, but it is clear that the Conservative Party is not doing enough. Of course, we are in the middle of a pandemic, but when MPs such as Dehenna Davison are promoting climate-damaging domestic flights, it is clear that their mindset needs to be challenged. Only a movement can challenge this. Some people will never get out and protest, which is why talking about climate change and embedding the fact (it’s not an idea, it is a fact) that we are facing ecological disaster is so important - it could get them to vote. If we make any upcoming election about the climate, we could shift political power away from corporations and toward communities, forcing any political party to rethink their climate change position in order to remain ‘popular’ with the electorate. We don’t need to ditch capitalism in order to fight climate change, but we need to challenge it. To summarise - talk about climate change, the problems and the solutions. Fight for a better strategy of overcoming the biggest crisis that we will ever face as a civilisation.
"We all must make climate change the topic of the day, whether that is at the dinner table, the classroom, online or at a protest."
Climate change is seen as a problem for the future, not the reality of the present. This is the biggest factor in silence about climate change. “Oh, it won’t impact us for years,” say some. We all know it is impacting us right now. In our lifetime, and most certainly in our children’s, things will change, and at this rate, they will change for the worse. If you are comfortable in being complicit in irreversible damage to the planet and feel like you can explain that to the future generation, there are no words for you. If you oppose that description, however, you need to speak up. A movement is not built overnight, but the foundations are there. People fall like dominoes, all joining a movement one after another. Strength is in numbers, but those who persevere are the strongest.
The COVID-19 crisis has exposed the cracks in our society, but as we are already seeing, climate change has not been given as much attention as other issues. Whatever the ‘normal’ was, it will be different when the recovery is in full swing. This provides the perfect opportunity to drive the conversation towards climate change, and how it can have a knock-on effect for other issues in society (jobs, travel etc). We need a Marshall Plan for the Earth, and we need it as soon as possible. This will not come naturally and it will not come from the protests of XR. It will come from ordinary people, leading the charge by voting, speaking and demanding real change from those who have the power to do so. Climate change crosses partisan lines and deserves an international response. This might seem near impossible, but if we succumb to silence, we will succumb to disaster.
Leo Quartermain's experiences as a working-class student at a culturally middle-class school led to him developing an interest in all aspects of politics and society. He also has a passionate interest in climate change, wanting our generation to be the ones that make a difference.
Disclaimer: All views expressed in this piece belong solely to the author and do not reflect the views of Demographica as a company