The  student climate march in Parliament Square, London, on February 15, 2019 (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
The student climate march in Parliament Square, London, on February 15, 2019 (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

SocietySeptember 25, 2019

A boomer’s message to the kids considering striking for climate

The  student climate march in Parliament Square, London, on February 15, 2019 (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
The student climate march in Parliament Square, London, on February 15, 2019 (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Tossing up whether to join the climate strikes on Friday? Don’t make the same mistake we did: this is not going to fix itself.

I tried some months ago to convince my nine-year-old grandson that I was going to rely on him to save the world. His wide-eyed wonderment at the enormity of the task, one so vast it seemed impossible for him to comprehend, merely reflected the futility of my request. You see, the reality is that by the time he is of an age to make any difference, no matter how hard he may try, it will likely be too late.

So I write to you, the students of New Zealand, to support and encourage you in your endeavours in bringing this to the attention – hopefully – of our politicians, our business and community leaders, or simply to unite yourselves to push for what must be done. Do not be dismayed when you get less attention than you deserve. No politician will walk willingly into the arena of unpopular choice or decision-making. 

Do not be intimidated by your teachers and principals demanding you not be involved. Arguments of truancy, of missed assessment deadlines, of important sports, arts or cultural practices really do pale into insignificance when measured against your stand. If your teachers are not willing supporters, remind them of the support they received over their recent action. It’s payback time – they should be marching with you. Convince your parents of your cause and do not accept complacency; do they not want a world where they might enjoy grandchildren? 

Students packed out Civic Square in Wellington before heading to parliament for the 24 May climate strike (Ana Tovey, Radio NZ)

Do not be overly critical of those who cannot bring themselves to support you. While it may appear they’re being self-centred, it’s simply that they, like many of the post-baby-boomer generations, are overwhelmed by the situation – it’s too big, too hard and too inconvenient for us. We had our time. We protested our involvement in foreign wars, proliferation of nuclear weapons and racial discrimination in sport. We generally started with little, worked hard, risked and sometimes lost, but overall have provided you with the standard of living you enjoy. Consider how lucky you are. 

But we got it wrong; so terribly wrong. We were so busy enjoying the fruits of our labour that we didn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t accept that the planet was being polluted at an almost irrecoverable rate, that we were careering down the path of self-destruction. And why? Because we didn’t know how to achieve what was required without compromising the lifestyles we are still indelibly adhered to. We don’t want to give anything up: the solitary drive to work, the overseas trips, those terrible supermarket decisions. It’s not that we are necessarily apathetic or indifferent; it’s that we are overawed by the enormity of the issue, confused, lost, and yes, too ready to retreat behind the diffusing filters of our material worlds.

How can we make such enormous changes in our attitudes if we perceive: a) it may not really be necessary (OK, I admit we are hiding in optimistic denial), b) even if it is necessary (which it is), our individual efforts, should we conjure up the motivation to do something, may not make any difference, and c) we will be dead and gone anyway. You’re entitled to accuse us of taking our self-centred interests to the extreme degree, of placing our lack of altruistic ideals over the long-term welfare of our children. You are our future generations, and yet we won’t get off our arses to ensure your future. 

Anti-tour protestors in Wellington, 1981 (Photo: NZ On Screen)

Because we can’t or don’t want to face the reality of it, we would rather focus on the current needs of getting you into uni or wherever, or whether we have enough beer for the weekend, enough ice for the G&Ts, how secure the World Cup is or if the boat requires refuelling. You need to ensure there are robust household discussions taking place about the possibility of your long-term future and what it may be like, if in fact you have one, and when and where the family line ceases if you don’t.

Our politicians, in this respect, are currently a waste of space. Our Green Party should be so ashamed of its lack of achievement it should self-implode. Attack it, take it over, instil some priorities and urgency into it. Our political policies are heavily influenced by big business and overseas interests. Our politicians lack integrity. What about making some of the hard decisions, what about ceasing pandering to tokenism. Plastic bags in supermarkets, yeah right, that’s not going to save the planet. We need so much more than that. 

Consider the influence of self-focused organisations on world politics. The influence of mega corporations, controlled by morally corrupt directors on the American and other major political scenes. Check out the background influencers in Trump’s decision to deny the effects of global warming and what is happening to their EPA, or who is or isn’t pulling the strings in the Amazon.

If you are prepared to fight for your future, you will be taking on some seriously big players. On your own, you haven’t a show in hell. Collectively, you can do it: it is your time. 

(Photo: Getty Images)

So go ahead with your protest, let it be one of as many as it takes to get progress. It is long past the time for discussions and accords. It is time for action and you are on centre stage. This is your future, or not; for you to choose or do otherwise. Do not be diverted because we are a small and remote nation or that other major pollutant-contributing countries are not taking the steps they should. We could lead the way, but are currently lagging behind other forward-looking countries. 

Yes, you will find you are trying to push it up hill, but tiring as that is, is it not better than sitting in our necks up to it, like we, the previous generations, are doing? Desperately hoping that someone else will fix the issue, a magic technological solution will miraculously appear or it will all just simply go away. Why? Because we are on our own, we do not have a collective stance, we do not have that which you all have in common. We sadly do not have your energy or your need. We lack sufficient motivation and simply put, do not know what to do or how to go about it.

Protest peacefully. Do not cause harm to anyone, do not permit it to occur to you, and do not damage anything. Otherwise, do whatever is necessary to achieve your goals. Bring this country to a standstill if that is what it takes, and it will, to gain recognition, to achieve action. Take note of the passion in Hong Kong; they are simply protesting for their rights, you are protesting for your future. Keep doing it until you succeed. Those who should know better will decry you; your intelligence, your maturity, your understanding will all be questioned. Take heart – the personal attacks are levelled because they cannot rationally argue against your cause. 

My generation will never see either the fruits of your success or the demise of the planet if you fail. All I know how to do is to applaud your motivation, your passion, your commitment. I sincerely wish you a future.

Keep going!