My mornings now involve a beautiful commute between Leeds and York. I choose the country back roads over the A64. I like the chance to listen to the best hour of Radio 4’s Today programme and reflect on the politics of the day. (And yes, I appreciate the irony of that first sentence in the context of what follows.)
For as long as I can remember now, it has been a depressing catalogue of various Brexit catastrophes that have shone a spotlight on the inability of our political processes to even organise to take decisions, let alone take them. This morning, though, there were two brief and truly inspirational interviews.
Schoolgirls Lilly Platt (10), from the Netherlands, and Jean Hinchliffe (15), from Australia, both of whom are active organisers of the school strike for climate, demonstrated a level of articulate argument and intelligence that should embarrass our politicians. Along with Greta Thunberg (16), who has inspired school strikes around the globe, and who just yesterday was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her campaigning on climate change, these are young people who have run out of patience with adult failure.
It is easy enough for patronising adults to respond by saying they are jeopardising their futures and should be in lessons. It is easy enough to fret about health and safety (a little ironic in a country where we are doing little to tackle an epidemic of knife crime and have a fondness for an era of British ‘greatness’ when we sent children up the chimneys that part-created this crisis). Their response contains a faultless logic: what future is there if we let inaction on climate destroy the planet?
Here in the UK, Anna Taylor (17) is one of the organisers. She and others, including Greta Thunberg, have restated their reasons for striking in the Guardian. Read it. It is a powerful, powerful piece.
This is not a campaign built around some well-worked theory of change, carefully disseminated and followed after development with well-paid PR companies and strategic consultants. These children speak plainly and bluntly, with passion, and without pulling their punches. It is becoming a global scream of desperation from young people around the world who give a shit and who are mostly not allowed to vote for change. They are seeing politicians of an older generation squander their future, who are either patronisingly patting them on the head, telling them it will be okay, or wringing their hands and agreeing earnestly whilst doing nothing.
And for those who are not paying attention, it is striking how the majority of the organisers are young women.
As Thunberg told the billionaires in Davos:
“I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.”
Her video is worth watching.
Today will be the largest climate strike to date. Greta, Anna, Jean and Lilly you are quite inspirational. Keep going. Keep screaming at us until we actually do something.
You can follow some of these young campaigners here: