Greta, young people and parliament

Reflections on time in Parliament hearing Greta Thunberg and politicians talk about climate change throw up the same conclusions.

Climate change does not favour a specific race, class, age, gender or any other group.

There was a rumble in the air. Yes, it’s a cliché, but we were all so excited. Finally, we would get the chance to have our voices heard. They’re finally beginning to listen! Or are they?

‘All-Party Parliamentary Climate Change Group’. What a mouthful. ‘APPCCG’ is a tad catchier, I guess. We wouldn’t have needed to go to Parliament had the powers that be heeded the warnings earlier.

As Greta repeatedly pointed out that Tuesday afternoon, the scientific proof’s there. The existence of climate change is undeniable. But, as is often said, 'better late than never'.

Truth

And now’s the time we need to act. All of us. We can all add our voices to the movement. We must do it. But why?

Well, because we haven’t any other option. We only have one Earth, after all. If we ruin our world, that’s it. No second chances. No Plan B, no Planet B. No going back. Extinction is permanent.

Greta’s speech captivated the audience, and was perhaps the most compelling part of the meeting. It reminded us that we, as citizens of the world, must work together to stop climate catastrophe.

She travelled by rail and road to deliver her important message to British politicians. “You lied to us. You gave us false hope. You told us that the future was something to look forward to”, she said.

It’s a sombre truth. “You don’t listen to the science because you are only interested in solutions that will enable you to carry on like before.”

Storms

For the most part, they did lie. And not just in our country, mind you. Such untruths are being perpetuated by politicians in other nations, too. This needs to stop.

We must hold our representatives to account. No longer should we accept their excuses for not doing enough to combat climate change. Greta didn’t claim to have all the answers - “not even a scientist could”, she said.

To put it quite simply, some of the technology that could help us eliminate carbon dioxide just hasn’t been invented yet.

So the notion of waiting for it to be invented before doing anything substantial is, quite frankly, absurd. Especially when you consider the fact that new, highly polluting coal, oil and gas plants are being planned.

Countries in the rich ‘Global North’ contribute most to the problem of global warming, while those in the ‘Global South’ bear the brunt of its consequences, with the results of climate change including increased flooding, drought and storms, which can and all too often do lead to famine, problems with infrastructure and economic loss in such nations.

Responsibility

The United Kingdom, in particular, has a special role to play in leading the fight against climate change, as Greta quite rightly pointed out.

Our country is the birthplace of industrialisation, and through the subjugation of nations beyond the seas and exploitation of the world’s natural resources, our ancestors have unknowingly laid the foundations for environmental instability.

To be proud to be British, those of us who do identity as British should be proud to take responsibility for repairing our share of the damage us humans now collectively realise we have done to our planet.

Leaders of wealthy nations like ours are privileged to have such influence on the world stage. We, the people, should put pressure on them to tackle the climate crisis. And a percentage reduction of greenhouse gas emissions just isn’t going to cut it anymore.

One of the things the political leaders of our country need to do is to ensure that major polluters such as the United States and China are also on board. This isn’t going to be easy, but we mustn’t bury our heads in the sand. The fate of our world is at stake.

Contamination

The homes and livelihoods of our friends in the developing world are already in peril.

At the meeting, sat in the front row opposite Michael Gove, Yusif asked why MPs decided to vote for Heathrow expansion even though they knew how climate change is already having a detrimental effect on the lives of so many people around the world right now.

For instance, in some parts of Ghana, the country where Yusif was born and lived in until moving to the UK three years ago, the impact of climate change is projected to have a serious effect on food security.

Drought and flooding are common occurrences in the country, leading to poor crop harvests, impacting upon farmers and their families, and at the same time reduces the amount of safe, clean water for drinking, leading to dehydration.

Flooding can lead to the contamination of drinking water sources, so that water is unusable until repurified. Flooding has also lead to an influx of pests and increases in the incidence of waterborne diseases.

Havoc

Yusif never got an answer to his question from the Environment Secretary, but Greta replied pointedly with "I don’t know" when asked how MPs can vote through airport expansion when so many countries are suffering the impact of climate change now.

Our friend and fellow activist, Ummi Hoque, attended the meeting with us. Sadly, Bangladesh, where her family is from, is now a textbook example of a land seriously affected by climate change.

Much of the country is low-lying and prone to flooding, a problem that will only get worse should sea levels continue to rise due to our failure to reverse global warming.

As weather conditions become more extreme, there will be a severe loss of arable land, and an increased risk of damage to crops and livestock through natural disasters such as cyclones. The potential for loss of life around the world due to climate change is unimaginable.

If, around the world, we carry on polluting the atmosphere, and if we fail to reverse our carbon footprint, we will allow this destructive phenomenon to worsen. Climate change will not hesitate to wreak havoc on not just faraway countries but also our own.

Act now

Regardless of the current administration’s reluctance to declare it as such, this is a climate emergency. And it should be treated as such.

The time has come for all politicians around the world to put their party affiliations and other differences aside for the issue of climate change, which has often been described as the most pressing issue ever faced by the human race.

Those who have chosen to represent us in legislative bodies of government around the world need to speak the truth about the calamity of climate change and the threat it poses to everybody as a global crisis.

As Ummi said: “Climate change does not favour a specific race, class, age, gender or any other group”. It doesn’t discriminate on any grounds; it poses a threat to all.

We can’t wait until it’s too late. Climate change is something that we all have a responsibility to reverse. The time for us to act is now.

The Authors

Tom Jayamaha and Yusif Ibrahim became campaigners with Friends of the Earth after graduating from the ‘My World My Home’ leadership programme offered in their colleges.

Help us keep The Ecologist working for the planet

The Ecologist website is a free service, published by The Resurgence Trust, a UK-based educational charity. We work hard - with a small budget and tiny editorial team - to bring you the wide-ranging, independent journalism we know you value and enjoy, but we need your help. Please make a donation to support The Ecologist platform. Thank you!

Donate to us here