What a fortnight it has been!
In 150 countries around the world we saw children and adults respond to the call of ‘strike’, to walk out of schools and jobs and come stand with the planet – and stand with it they did! Photos from India, South Africa, Chile, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Poland, Thailand, Ukraine, UK and so many others filled social media spaces. In New Zealand a purported 3.5% of the total population showed up during the strikes and an approximate of 7 million people participated in strikes around the world.
The movement is led by young people, and leading from the front is a 16 year old Greta Thunberg. At the U.N.’s Climate Action Summit in New York City on 23rd September, a visibly emotional Greta spoke to the world leaders:
“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”
As I was listening, I was strangely reminded of a favorite memory, that of reading The Lorax to my five year old nephew. We had a routine, him and I. Before going to sleep we would plump up the pillows, tuck ourselves in and then open the book. He was the little boy who came to the Once-ler to find out about the Lorax, that creature who spoke ‘for the trees, for the trees who have no tongues’. I was the pretend Once-ler, tired and broken from having wreaked an eco-system and understood the outcomes of my action too late. As the night would settle on us I would deepen my voice to give it gravitas and pronounce those final words of the Onceler: “Unless!”, I would say, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” And then I would pretend to hand him the last Truffula tree seed to sow.
I think about it now and wonder at the fairness of it. Can the burden of doing something rest only on the young? It is a question that remains hanging in the air at the end of a week full of strikes. How will we, as adults, show up in this story? As Greta said to the grown-ups in the room: “My message is that we’ll be watching you”.