I saw them first early on Friday morning at my local suburban station. They stood out. They didn’t look like regular commuters. They were young – 15 or 16, why weren’t they at school? They greeted each other warmly. In a place of formal morning nods, this was odd. And they looked happy, and excited. What was WRONG with them?!
Then I noticed the signs. The handmade clumsy and colourful signs have become a recognisable calling card. There was one with the ubiquitous ‘There Is No Planet B’ phrase, a few others about dinosaurs and the future. My favourite had an image of a Dr Seuss character on it. It read ‘The Lorax speaks for the trees. The Lorax says fuck you’. I was oddly moved by it, by that mixture of the joy and childhood innocence that so many of these young climate protesters are just a hop away from, married with a fierce, rude, urgent anger.
When I got to Glasgow Central station, I saw many more of them, gathering, laughing, readying – kids stuffing school ties and blazers into bags, heading out. This was impressive. I remember when I was their age I also went to the big smoke and stuffed a blazer and a tie into a bag. But that was to try and get into a pub, not march to change the world!
I have been one of those people who was not 100 per cent behind the climate action events. I understood the need to do something. The science is inarguable. We’re doing terrible things to the planet. Huge behavioural change is needed.
However, I also felt that there was a disconnect around the action and message. Taking over the streets in climate strikes and climate-related interventions didn’t always get the message through. It prevented people getting to work, it prevented people who may have been sympathetic from going about their daily lives; it antagonised. It felt like a class issue – and the working class were not at the table. There was also a question around technologies. A mobile phone, the device every young climate activist owns, causes widescale environmental impact in the mining of materials, in its manufacture, transport and disposal. How could this be reconciled with the agenda and aims?
Then I realised on Friday I was an idiot. All I’d been doing was saying but , but, but… I thought I was being rational and balanced and clear-sighted. I was wrong.