I’ve been ‘doing politics’ for a decade now but I’m clinging to the label of ‘young person’. Like the thousands of young people who took to the streets on Friday, I’ve come to realise that my adult life will now be defined by a series of overlapping crises caused by climate breakdown.
This year alone we’ve seen the Amazon burn, wildfires in the Arctic, hurricanes, flooding and the mass displacement of people.
The climate crisis is already a major contributor towards conflicts across the planet. Resources are only becoming scarcer, while the same companies and individuals whose actions caused this crisis continue to rake in billions.
Climate strikers can see that even here the price of food, fuel and other essentials will keep going up and ordinary people will suffer for it.
No wonder they’re taking to the streets.
If you listen to what young people are actually demanding of governments, it isn’t ‘please make your 30-year zero-emissions targets a little stronger’ or ‘please pour more money into speculative, non-functioning technology like carbon capture and storage’.
Climate strikers know that banning plastic straws or switching to energy efficient lightbulbs won’t save the world and secure their future. They are demanding radical action. Now. They know we need system change.
Greta Thunberg spoke for billions when she told the US Congress last week: “You’re not trying hard enough.” The same is true of both Scottish & UK governments.
Greta’s written evidence was the landmark IPCC report, published last year, which gives governments only a decade to slow global warming. A decade. A sixteen-year old taking part in Friday’s climate strike will be only in their mid-twenties when that final deadline comes around.
If they study hard and gain skills and expertise in climate science or engineering, they will be graduating too late to make that difference. If they go into elected politics, even as early as I did, they will do so long after the time for gradual change passed.
That is why they are taking to the streets now. They can’t afford to wait.
But climate breakdown is written into our economics, which is why we need a Scottish Green New Deal to rip up that failed system.
We need to rip up the old economic rule book to create jobs, integrate public transport, reforest Scotland and give everyone a warm and secure home. This would dramatically cut emissions and secure a future for all of us. It would be the kind of response our young people are demanding of us.