"How dare you?"
It would seem the pandemic has not dampened the determination of Swedish activist Greta Thunberg to try and hold the governments of the world responsible for increasingly catastrophic climate change. It is a fact that even beyond the stifling grasp of the pandemic, the year 2020 has been marked with many weather-related catastrophes which have struck already vulnerable populations in tandem with the contagion. Forest fires, abnormal heatwaves and destructive floods are all a sign that climate change is a fast-approaching tipping point beyond which there is no return as disasters perpetuate disasters and go beyond current human capability.
Leaders and industry heads have shown visible reluctance to heed the scale of destruction, engaging in bad faith arguments, making promises that are reneged upon later as economies and the current consumption-based neo-capitalist juggernaut powers on, unheeding of the signs of a dying planet. Thunberg's message was very simple from the start. Stop ignoring the signs. Her appeal to the youth, to those who would inherit this dying world, was to become involved and make their views heard in a relatively closed global conversation on the direction of global economies. Last week, Thunberg's call for action resulted in demonstrations in as many as 3,100 locations. The pandemic may have limited the ability of mass gatherings but support flooded in online. Still, this is not to say that the physical protests were sparsely attended. In Berlin, nearly 10,000 demonstrators peacefully sat in protest in front of the Brandenburg Gate, masks and social distancing observed and chanting slogans. These slogans called for strikes, from universities, schools and companies. A message that would send a clear sign to those whose politics endanger the planet.
The demonstrations particularly tried to draw attention to the disproportional, inequitable and simply unfair burden of climate change. Nations on the front lines of climate devastation may many times have little in the way of contributions to such a dire situation. One of the youth activists in Uganda told Reuters that Africa's devastating floods were neglected by the global community in favour of the California wildfires that have grabbed headlines across the world. It is the people in the so-called 'global south' that suffer from the ground realities of climate change and suffer most from inaction over it is as well. Regardless of the nation in question, the protests were unified in expressing unambiguous anger with the current state of the climate change fight. As many have pointed out during these recent pandemic times, climate change is the true disaster of our times. A catastrophe that will create billions of climate refugees and populations without access to natural resources like clean air and drinking water. The current tensions over refugee crises would look incomparably insignificant to what lies on the other side of a failure to course correct. Eventually, developed, developing or underdeveloped will be irrelevant terms that will not stop climate change from affecting the wealthiest and most advanced of nations. The current string of climate mishaps taking place across the world is a clear sign of this.
It is often argued that the current generation of world leaders is too invested in the current order of things. Change is not an easy progress in a system with complex political ins and outs and it is this balancing act that politicians must play that makes them the wrong candidates to affect urgent climate change control measures. What is required is a political outsider that cannot be easily ignored and one that cuts across lines of compromise and pretension. The youth, in short, are the ones who can influence a drastic change in the ways of the global economic machine. While global leaders have attempted to trivialise such gatherings and assertions as 'unrealistic' or 'childish', Thunberg has managed to win global support with many world leaders pledging to support her cause, with a few notable outliers who have kept away.