Thank your lucky stars you don't have to live with climate change the way the young do. They look and they see what's coming and they know they'll be right in the path of it.
What do they see when they look at us, their elders - the boomers, Gen X, some of the millennials? They see a group of people, people who call the shots, who don't share their fear, the critical urgency of the threats they face. That can't be a lot of fun.
Still they're not shooting people. They're not blowing shit up. They march in big numbers and they wave their hand-made signs and, for a fleeting moment, we idolize their leaders like Greta Thunberg before getting back to our high-carbon economy and lifestyles. They're not fooled. They see us as a threat but we don't see them the same way. They had better find some means of making us recognize the urgency of their plight because we're definitely on cruise control.
If there’s one word to sum up today’s political pace, perhaps it is urgency. Climate catastrophe is coming; hate crimes are rising; the far right is advancing and none of us can remember the last time parliamentary democracy wasn’t characterised by a hopeless race against a ticking clock.
And yet, having spent a lifetime lulled into the complacency that comes with privilege and a centrist establishment, it seems our political class just isn’t getting it.
...What the political establishment crucially fails to acknowledge is that a new generation of activists has grown up watching things go wrong on a dramatic scale in the blink of an eye. For millennials and generation Z, political life has been defined by the collapse of institution after institution. In 2008, a generation of students went to sleep one night and woke up to an unforgiving job market that may never recover fully from the financial crash. In 2016, they watched along with their younger peers as hate-crime statistics soared following the UK’s decision to leave the European Union.
In their relatively short lives they’ve seen fascists win elections, terrorist attacks devastate countries across the world, climate change-accelerated natural disasters claim the lives of thousands. How can anyone expect them to believe that change should be slow and steady when disaster has been so swift and ruthless?
Ultimately, it’s not just that the older political establishment has a different approach or an inherited wisdom, but that it is actively standing in the way of progress on issues that require radical and urgent solutions. In a system built explicitly to advance the slow and gradual politics that have benefited its representatives for decades, this is no small ask. But the ways of the past have failed us.