The YouthStrike4Climate protest hit town on Friday, not far from our Manchester office, with a crowd of mostly secondary schoolers, college and undergraduate students. These strikers – truants and timewasters in some quarters – had come along from class and were talking, chanting and waving their banners.
In his book ‘Blueprint for a Green Economy’, the economist David Pearce quoted a Canadian politician who asked “Where are the lollipops in sustainable development?”. There aren’t many lollipops in climate change, but this strike felt like one. It was great to see and even better to listen to. It’s been more than 14 years that I’ve been working on climate, carbon and energy. The pace of change has always been slow. There’s been some good stuff in that time, but it’s mostly just been slow. Frustratingly slow. Business does move, but it’s driven by regulation, whilst the public think it’s someone else’s responsibility to do anything significant. On the whole, my generation don’t get it and don’t want to face up to it.
Nobody who saw this strike can say that there isn’t an unprecedented understanding and collective determination amongst this new group. It’s closely associated with the wider climate activism movement, but the youth element feels like something new is happening. Even though it’s still an emerging movement and their membership is not broad, maybe we are seeing a new generation picking up the baton that my generation has failed to grasp?
I spoke to a woman with her grandson who suggested that this was how popular social movements start. She drew a parallel with the small beginnings of the womens rights movement from when she had first campaigned on the streets. Another man told me that this was now the only viable solution to drive the necessary change in our societies.
How will this grow and evolve? It feels like the genie is out of the bottle. Government looks unmoved, but are they misjudging the mood? If this movement grows and becomes influential, how will business react and what will their investors demand?
I think this isn’t the last time I’ll write about this. More lollipops please.
by Damian Burton, Managing Directer at Tricarbon