The day has finally come. The kids have worked out that today’s so called ‘adults’ are literally stuffing up their future. They are taking to the streets to let us know how they feel about this. They are angry. They are upset. They want to put a stop to it. And if the adults know what’s good for them, they’d better start listening. Business as usual is not going to cut it with the younger generation.
The problems are huge, but not insurmountable. Neoliberal economics has failed both people and the planet. Though to be fair, early economists who promoted unfettered market forces never envisaged a global system with an unlimited pool of available labour and cheap resources. Maybe they should have. Either way, neoliberalism needs to go. It’s not fit for purpose.
At the moment we are not even discussing the right questions. Politicians still spend days and carbon miles at meetings trying to agree on emissions targets and the timeframes for doing this. As if there is a choice about how much emissions need to reduce and it can be done country by country. Then there are elaborate schemes that allow emitters to buy carbon credits from low emitters so that no big corporation is inconvenienced by emissions targets.
We need a new way of thinking. But first we need to know exactly what is happening in our world. Globalization/corporatization has, perhaps deliberately, obscured the links between raw materials, production process, the product, and what happens to the product once it is no longer needed. We desperately need all that information.
We need to know what resources are used, how they are obtained, the conditions for workers, and environment under which all goods are produced, and exactly what happens to the goods when they are no longer needed. From the very beginning to the absolute end of the cycle. Governments and businesses need to know that too.
We need to start talking about producing things because they are needed, not as a way for a few people to get very rich. Computers and phones don’t need to be tossed out every few years because they can’t handle the latest applications. Applications need to be designed so that existing devices can be easily upgraded to handle them. We don’t need to transport most foods around the world, covered in plastic packaging so it stays fresh for as long as possible and clocking up carbon miles. For the most part, we don’t need plastic at all.
We need to work out how to live without fossil fuels and deal with our rubbish, in ways that ensure everyone has access to a decent way of life. It might not be easy, but it could even be fun. Clean air, clean earth, clean water, healthy fresh food – what’s not to like?
Hopefully the students’ climate protests will be a wake-up call to finally get efforts to combat climate change on the right track. The kids are giving a very clear message that they are unimpressed by our efforts so far and we will be held accountable if we fail.