Collapse, extinction, doom. These are the apocalyptic predictions to which we have acclimatised, as the media barrages us with horrific headlines, regarding climate change. In truth, the situation is dire and will continue to be dire for the foreseeable future. Sorry, everyone. For the environmentally conscious and the geography students amongst us, we know that as a generation we have to deal with distress and distraction of notifications on our phones which augur death and destruction and the end of world by 2050. It is certainly one for the mental diary, however, is this overwhelming sense of hopeless terror a bad thing?
Perhaps, a more pressing question is what do we do with this displaced anxiety? Must we all become vegans immediately and tag all posts with #FriendsNotFood? Should we make a point of missing Friday lessons to take a stand, paste politicians’ faces on posters and march on Whitehall? With Extinction Rebellion stickers on every traffic light in the city, it’s hard to miss the current zeitgeist of protests storming the globe.
Some of us like to engage in more modest forms of “rebellion”, such as not using plastic straws, or even more ambitiously, purchasing so many plants to put on your bedroom window sill that it resembles a runner-up in the Chelsea Flower Show. Indeed, are we even bothered to do anything about resolving our confusions? It is difficult to see how we can direct our energies in a more focused manner, when even those with the power to make a difference are unable to agree on what is most urgent and effective. It seems as though climate change has been the poor cousin of global interest, even though it is arguably the most pressing issue of our lives. Going back to the United Nations Climate Change Conference of 2009, we see a pattern of incompetence and ignorance amongst politicians and decision makers. The conference ended with the vague appreciation of the need to do something, and a non-legally binding document that stated actions should be taken to prevent global temperature increase of 2 degrees Celsius. What actions? Who is responsible for overseeing these actions? Any takers – no? Well, if there any questions about how our generation is being let down – consider it answered. Let there be no doubt: when it comes to climate change, we have been let down by those in power.
In the UK, the political headlines are a string of failures falling under the categories of The Mediocre, The Bad, and The Brexit. To put it simply, why aren’t more people adopting Wimbledon High’s much-loved “Fail Better” principle, instead of “Fail and Forget”, which seems to be the motto of most of our global leaders at present. Given the failure of our elected and non elected representatives, we know that it is now up to us to make things happen. To mobilise and motivate ourselves to save not only what is precious to us, but also to the billions of future inhabitants of ‘our little world of man’ – or woman or any other sentient being.
So, with this in mind, let me ask you this: what are YOU going to do? Or rather, what can you do? You could #StopSucking and boycott plastic straws, and you can also campaign to make the US government rethink its refusal to sign any declaration mentioning climate change at the Arctic Council. These are both vital and valid. We need to find a balance between the grand actions and the humble gestures – the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, and as we all know at WHS, it is all about stepping and striding.
Tackling and reconciling the challenges of our changing climate is comparable to the seemingly insurmountable trials and tribulations we shall all face at some point in our personal lives. We experience loss of family or friends, end relationships with those we love, and we are jolted by political turmoil on a regular basis. In essence, there is some comfort to be taken from the fact that we are part of a greater story that has faced trauma and near extinction for thousands of years, but humans and humanity have prevailed; perhaps looking back at our evolution should give us pause and a reason to be optimistic about our ability to face our demons and emerge triumphant.
Moving forward, we need to live to our fullest potential, recognise the challenges that weigh on our minds and meet them with a true desire to improve the status quo for the world, to work towards a future for which we are not blamed by our children, but rather thanked as the generation that stood up and laboured to protect our home, our blue planet.