It’s a personal choice but I don’t think telling people they’ll never be forgiven, berating them with “how dare you”, does much to bring people on board. Usually it has the opposite effect. It’s just another sad example of serious and complex political issues being reduced to “I’m right and you’re an idiot”. That kind of discourse just pollutes the town square. It’s fractious and shuts others out. It is toxic to democratic debate.
The whole trip, the hype and the expense was one big media circus. One can’t help but think it’s more to promote the person than the issue. Given the over-dramatisation of global warming by some, including Thunberg, we now have a generation of children worried about being burnt to a crisp.
Out of all the 16-year-olds in the world, why is it that just one features in the media worldwide? There are other kids who care as much, are just as articulate, just as concerned. If you think the world focussing on this one young girl was just some happy accident you are plugged into a faulty socket.
I’ve seen the photo of her outside her school on her first climate strike. Posed to draw on the haunting concept of the lonely outsider who, surprise, surprise becomes the involuntary hero. Who took that photo and, more importantly, why?
Now we have kids all over the world skipping school for the day to show how much they care. I’d be more impressed if they gave up their free time to make their statement.
Even more impressive would be if they organised to collectively make a lasting statement by doing something useful. If everyone who skipped school had planted a tree in pre-agreed areas that needed revegetating, that would have made an impressive statement. If all the protesters focussed on a few areas, whole suburbs could be made better places in which to live. All it would take is commitment and elbow grease. Just skipping school gives you no skin in the game.
Per capita emissions tell a part of the story and ours are on the higher end. Perhaps the Australian protesting kids could all decide to not own a car and to use public transport instead. At home they could not use air conditioning: my generation grew up without it. Individually they could give up all devices, maybe bar a simple phone and use a shared family tablet or computer. While they’re at it they might ditch the idea of trendy clothes that are discarded long before they’re worn out. Would these striking students be able to pass a simple test on the positive things both sides of politics have done in Australia? Don’t hold your breath.
Everyone can and should play their part. More to the point is how globally we address this. The plain fact is that China and the US produce more than 40 per cent of world emissions followed by India and Russia. The top 15 countries produce more than 70 per cent of emissions. Unless these countries change their ways what we do will make little difference. Our per capita emissions are high but our total contribution is way way down the scale. That’s not a reason to shrug our shoulders and walk away. Not at all. But it does provide some perspective. Did our school protesters think that Xi Jing Ping, or Modi or Putin gave a damn about their protest? Did they even think about that?
Greta Thunberg seemed angered at the presence of President Trump arriving at the UN. She may have just been realising the missed opportunity to get more headlines by berating him. That’s what she does. People have grown tired of that trick.
Amanda Vanstone is a former Coalition minister.