For three hours, we’re going quiet. Here’s why.
Despite it being known, catalogued and largely undisputed for decades, a decent response to climate change felt like something we could reach by next year. We just had to get our head around the housing crisis, or the GFC, or the Iraq war, or big tech, or whatever the current big story was.
For a variety of reasons, from wildfires to record-scorching heatwaves to the roaring return of coal, 2019 seems like the year it’s really cut through – moved from something you fretfully thought about from time to time to a malignancy which never leaves your mind. The Spinoff’s office is in the inner west of Auckland, and it feels like you can track the generalised anxieties of the neighbourhood by the inexorable rise of the Nissan Leaf from an anomaly to one of the most popular cars in surrounding suburbs.
Yet for all the adult expressions of fear and guilt, it’s been the response of children and young adults which might have been the most impactful change. Greta Thunberg’s fury is its vector, and the mass climate strikes prove the scale of emotion. The generation that will be around when 2100 rolls around feel it even more keenly, and the climate rage has prompted organisations ranging from huge (Meridian) to small and deeply principled (Common Sense Organics) to throw their support behind today’s strikes.
They are the same reasons that have motivated us to participate, too. Between noon and 3pm The Spinoff will publish nothing on its platform or any of its social channels. Many of our staff are attending the strikes, either as participants or to cover them.
Below are a few short passages from our writers, talking about their feelings today, or the single moment which cut through the torrent and stayed with them. We’ll be back at 3pm – we hope you don’t mind the interruption to normal service, but these aren’t normal times.
Go here for everything you need to know about today’s general strike for climate, and here to read our climate crisis coverage. If you’re out and about, please send us your photographs, observations, watercolours to email@example.com
Leonie Hayden: Being a culture that has living ties to lands, rivers and seas, Māori never had the luxury of ignoring the mess for a couple of centuries and then suddenly wondering why the skies were choking and the seas were rising and the earth was on fire. We know what happened. We watched as our land was stolen and used for agriculture that poisoned our rivers; we watched as expansion destroyed native species and forests inch by agonising inch. Māori have always been on the frontline of protests about threats to our environment, from nuclear testing to Standing Rock. We have begged industries and governments repeatedly to stop exploiting Papatūānuku and we have consistently been ignored.
Indigenous people still fight and still hold knowledge that can help us all if only people would stop and listen. Now that late stage capitalism is coming to its inevitable conclusion (ie resources are finite and continuous growth is unsustainable) and the earth is giving up on us, it’s time to listen to indigenous people because they’ve been paying attention. I’m going on strike because I’m the voice of Papatūānuku and so are you.
Emily Writes: I want to be able to say to all of our children and their children that we fought for them. We kept fighting even though it seemed hopeless. There is a quote attributed to many people over the years, inspired by the teachings of the Talmud. It says: “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.” We can not abandon our obligations to our children and to future generations. We cannot steal their future. One day our children will face us and they will ask us if we fought for them. I want to be able to answer them.
Don Rowe: The endless deluge of terrible climate-related news has convinced me that nothing will ever get better, only worse, and I’ve become a full-blown antinatalist. There are now three certainties in life: death, taxes, and the imminent collapse of the biosphere. Striking will likely achieve sweet fuck all, but it’s cathartic to yell, and I’ll be damned if I go quietly into the hell-night.
Alex Casey: I’m scared because 200 species are going extinct every day and I bet heaps of them are funny and weird looking and I’ll never get to see them and neither will my children that I may or may not ever have due to the crippling anxiety that keeps me awake at night, wondering whether or not their world will be OK in the end. I’m scared because of that video of a bird puking up endless tiny bits of plastic, because of the turtle with the straw up its nose, because of the beautiful, delicate wee seahorse gently cradling a used Q-tip in the rapidly-heating ocean.
Sam Brooks: A few years ago my doctors gave me a not very nice prognosis that meant that I probably wouldn’t be around to experience most of what happens after the doomsday clock strikes whatever number it strikes when we’re all fucked. It’s not the worst prognosis – I’m still more likely to be hit by a gas-guzzling car before my own White Rabbit stopwatch takes me to Wonderland – but it’s definitely a pre Planet Earth Doomsday one.
Oftentimes, it has felt like a get out of jail free card. But at other times, when I look around me, when I feel a bit hotter, or see the genuine anger that people who are so young that they don’t remember Nicole Kidman winning Best Actress for The Hours have inside and outside them, it reminds me that there is no get out of jail free card.
Whether you’re part of gens A-Z or you’re clocking out in the next week, this is your issue. We all helped create this world, whether it’s through action or inaction – I believe there’s no such thing as inaction, a lack of action is in itself a direct choice and an action – and it’s our job to help fix it and make it better. Whether that’s walking to work rather than taking an Uber or taking to the streets and screaming until your lungs dry up, it’s our job.
I’ve nothing more profound to say about it than that. It would be easy to write it off as “not my problem”, it very much is not a problem that will affect me. But it’ll affect people I love, people I goddamned fucking hate, and people I don’t even know. It’s our problem. It’s our job.
Josie Adams: Do you really think Elon Musk is going to let you live on Mars with him? Grow up. Most of us aren’t getting off this planet alive, and thanks to the climate crisis you’ll have less time on it than ever. At this point, we’re in crisis mode. Recycling ain’t shit. We need to stop making plastic full stop and treat hydrocarbons as a rarity (among a hundred other different systemic changes), otherwise we are truly going to struggle when Mad Max becomes half the world’s reality.
Alice Neville: If I’m thinking big picture here, I would say rubbish was the first inkling of an awakening for young Alice. Like every child (no? Just me?), I loved nothing more than accompanying my dad on a trip to the rubbish dump. I clearly remember being fascinated by the concept of landfill. Even as a wee nipper, it struck me as kinda fucked that all the shit we didn’t know what to do with was dumped with a whole lot of other shit other people didn’t know what to do with and buried with other shit that other people didn’t know what to do with. Then I learnt about rubbish island, aka the Great Pacific garbage patch, aka the Pacific trash vortex, and the unease continued to grow. And now here we are.
Duncan Greive: It was Elizabeth Kolbert and David Wallace-Wells who got me. Kolbert wrote feature after meticulously reported feature in the New Yorker, calmly and methodically laying out what we had done and what it was doing. About all the biodiversity lost, the ice shelves melting and those who warned decades ago and never could get heard. Wallace-Wells did the opposite, dialling it up to 11, breaking with the measured language of science to lay out where we are headed on current trends. It was journalism that got me (which is why I am such a huge admirer of Stuff’s commitment to coverage), and I believe we as an industry have a critical role to play in staying with this subject, in all its complexity, wherever it takes us.
Hayden Donnell: I have a baby son and I would like for him to live.
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.