There’s a link between the climate crisis and not doing anything about the climate crisis.
Joshua Curiel was involved in pro-EU campaigns and has since turned his attention to the climate crisis.
I ask him about his climate activism and he said: “My generation is the first to grow up with an understanding of what climate crisis actually means, but the last that can do anything about it." It’s something he likes to repeat, as he remarked: “people have short memories”.
He continued: “Throughout history people look back at those who came before them and think that some of the stuff they did was nuts. Inaction when it comes to the climate crisis is definitely our era’s bonkers moment.” Adding that: “It’s up to my generation to make up for lost time and find practical solutions for saving the planet.”
Curiel’s animation comes across over the phoneline from his home in north London, where he has lived his whole life. But his eagerness is fuelled by positivity, that things can and will change. He repeats a couple of times that the climate crisis poses a very real threat, but one that can be met with excitement because of "creative approaches to tackling it".
His maternal grandfather was the architect Roger Westman, who was a pioneer of sustainable architecture and made sure that all of his buildings had as-little-an-impact on the environment as possible.
Westman’s commitment clearly rubbed off on his grandson. Curiel says: “designers and architects like my grandfather play an important part in mitigating environmental destruction. He [Westman] was, in many regards, ahead of his time.”
“I might be preaching to the converted, but people need to learn more about our environment because once you understand the facts, no reasonable person would ignore the problems.”
When asked about coronavirus, he said that he had expected it to hit sooner. “This is an opportunity to prepare for an eco-friendly future. But it’s important to note that some companies are using coronavirus as cover for environmental damage.” Curiel is talking about the development and firing up of the new Datteln-4 coal-fuelled power plant in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany.
He explained: “On 16 January, Germany agreed to set a target of ending coal-dependency by 2038, but a few months later they’re firing up a new coal powered plant. It shows that most of the time, targets are a load of nonsense and set back because of red tape.”
In this case, the bureaucracy ran deep. “Datteln-4 is owned by Uniper. Uniper is majority owned by a Finnish company named Fortum Ojy. The Finnish state owns just over 50 percent of Fortum Oyj.” Last year Finland announced that it would be carbon neutral by 2035. A target no doubt made easier by placing plants in Germany instead of Finland.
Curiel continued: “Two years ago, experts from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change told us that we had just 12 years to act and make urgent changes, or we’d be unable to put a halt to the climate crisis. That wasn’t a suggestion, but a warning” One that has not been taken seriously by governments. Or, if it has, is too slow-moving.
“That leaves a decade to avert climate catastrophe. How on earth can we justify opening new coal-based plants now, in 2020, during a pandemic?”
But Curiel manages to make the cancelling of April’s global climate strikes because of Covid-19 positive, too. He says: “The online climate strike gives us a chance to feel a part of something much bigger.” It’s also an opportunity to look at the science, with webinars from climate experts being spread around the internet to millions of viewers, Talks For Future.
“There’s lots to be positive about: few people are denying the existence of climate change and fewer companies are thinking about investing in non-renewable energy resources.
“Each day people are taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint, awareness has never been so high and it’s never been easier to get your voice heard as a climate activist.”
Only last month, Curiel appeared on Norway’s national news programme, NRK Nyheter, talking about the impact of the online climate strike.
Writing in The Independent, he argued that Brexit and the climate crisis have politicised his generation. And more recently wrote: “Young people are using their tech-savviness for good, creating eye-catching and informative online posters and messages to engage more and more young people in the climate movement.”
He added that “lockdown offered exciting opportunities for climate strikers to make new connections with one another.”
The messages from experts, that the climate crisis is the most important issue of our time, has been received. I’ve heard many young activists say that it has become cool to care about the environment and ecosystem.
Curiel adds “Of course, there’s still more to be done, but the message is getting through. Groups such as Extinction Rebellion, whether you like them or not, have done a fantastic job getting the climate crisis on the front pages.
“Projects like the WWF’s Wildlife Adaptation Innovation Fund have played a vital role in helping vulnerable species adapt to climate change. And sustainable alternatives, particularly solar and wind technologies, are proving to be good alternatives. There’s lots to be optimistic and positive about.”
I asked him for a climate-related quote that he liked: “Ah, it has to be 'there’s a link between the climate crisis and not doing anything about the climate crisis', that was quite a clever thing I read a while ago.”
He ends by saying that “the future is in good hands”, and it certainly is. In September last year, some 6 million people around the world participated in the global climate strike. This is only the beginning.
Gideon Fiennes is a journalist.