1001 GMT August 12, 2022
“Why should I be studying for a future that soon may be no more, when no one is doing anything to save that future? And what is the point of learning facts when the most important facts clearly means nothing to our society?”
It is hard to argue with the razor-sharp logic of 15-year-old Greta Thunberg, as she spelled out to the UN climate conference in Poland last week the reason why she has embarked on a ‘climate strike’ in Sweden since September, irishtimes.com reported.
“Since our leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago,” Thunberg added.
She has a point. And if you doubt it, consider the recent statements made by Ireland’s most senior civil servants representing the ‘public interest’ to the Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action.
Flanked by advisers, they trooped in, day after day, to explain why Ireland, a wealthy nation, cannot possibly be expected to meet even its minimum legal and ethical obligations on climate action.
Their positions both reflect and amplify the political lacuna that engulfs almost every effort at meaningful environmental stewardship in Ireland. These same officials and politicians doubtless have children they care deeply for and actively plan for their future. Yet their actions and inactions are in a very real sense helping to burn that same future to the ground.
Naturalist, David Attenborough (92) was a young teenager just as Europe exploded into the deadliest conflict in human history. Today, he is adamant the threats facing the world are immeasurably greater than even the World War II.
“Right now we are facing a man-made disaster of global scale, our greatest threat in thousands of years: ‘Climate change’, Attenborough told a stunned audience in Katowice, Poland . “If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”
Last month, thousands of Australian students, inspired by Thunberg, walked out of their schools for a one-day strike. Some were threatened with disciplinary action. Australian resource minister Matt Canavan jeered that they should be in school learning about mining, and all they would learn on their protest would be “how to join the dole queues”.
It takes profound cognitive dissonance for otherwise intelligent adults to pretend not to grasp basic science. “Why should we go to school when you won’t listen to the educated?” read one of the posters at a rally in Sydney.
“Nothing could be more damaging for our democracy than for budding citizens to be told by the powerful to get back in their boxes and shut up,” ethicist Prof. Clive Hamilton wrote last week. “Thank God the kids have decided they won’t be bullied.”
School protests have now spread to the Netherlands, Germany, Finland and Denmark. When will we see the first one in Ireland?
As a citizen and journalist, I am angry and frustrated at the appalling cynicism in Ireland’s collective non-response to this unfolding tragedy. But as a parent, I am simply terrified.
* John Gibbons is an environmental journalist and commentator.