4 minutes

They know to hold the adults accountable

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 15: Young people during a Climate Change Awareness March on March 15, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. The protests are part of a global climate strike, urging politicians to take urgent action on climate change. (Photo by James Gourley/Getty Images)

I had been unemployed when my 11-year old niece and I cooked pasta together. As she arranged the plates and the utensils on the table and the chopped onion fried on the pan, filling the kitchen with a hunger-provoking smell, my niece stoped and asked me why I still lack a job. As a kid she expected a straight answer, but I stammered with the eyes downcast. I lied when I said I’m looking for work. Even today her question stuck like a splinter in my mind.

She made me face the uncomfortable truth I had been delaying: I avoided looking for work, living off my meager savings. And it seemed my unemployment affected even her. I wanted to be and I thought I’m a role model for her, but her question showed I hadn’t done enough to deserve that. As I shifted on my heels, thinking whether I should take the pot off the fire or pour the tomato sauce into the pan first, she sensed my embarrassment and let the topic slip away. Phew.

Not the Climate Kids; they have no mercy to spare. They will keep asking and asking what adults do to stop burning fossil fuel. Children have the right to humiliate adults when these have done little to address climate change. That’s what happened at the World Economic Forum in Devos, Switzerland in January 2019. It’s shameful for the billionaires who arrived in private jets at the event, when Greta Thunberg, 16, arrived after a 30-hour train ride to give a speech at a panel (that included Gary Cohn a former Goldman Sachs president and Trump’s chief economic adviser). But more shaming were her words: “Some people, some companies, some decision-makers in particular, have known exactly what priceless values they have been sacrificing to continue making unimaginable amounts of money.” And then she went for her final stab: “And I think many of you here today belong to that group.”

The elite can’t fart in a room full with children and then leave.

So herein lies the power of children to fight climate corruption. Greta’s is a message that the global elite is no role model for children. The elite can’t fart in a room full with children and then leave. Exxon and the like knew 40 years ago that their dirty business destroys our planet, yet chose to invest in misinformation. They chose to lie to us. They chose to lobby politicians and bribe them by funding their political campaigns—all to keep drilling. In 2018, oil and gas companies spent a staggering $28 million to lobby the Congress, the bulk of the money going into Republican pockets. I’m glad that children see no authority in such politicians or businessmen. They deserve none.

The Climate Kids understand unless we cut the greenhouse emissions by 45% within 12 years, we’re toast. Kids understand that because it’s their future adults neglect. Greta, skipping classes on Fridays and protesting solo in front of the Swedish parliament inspired 1,4 million students across 128 countries to strike against this gross neglect on March 25. For kids this is akin to being left at an orphanage. And they are angry because they know they have no reason to be feeling like orphans. This feeling has no place when the costs of solar panels is down almost 100% since 1977. Kids know the adults are deserters.

It’s powerful when kids ask of us black and white solutions. I love how Greta put it at Davos: “You say nothing in life is black and white, but that’s a lie.” Indeed, no gray area exists with climate change. We tell our kids they aren’t important when we allow companies to invest $65 billion to capitalize on the so-called fracking revolution and expand plastic production in the US, while ExxonMobil, Dow, Farmosa Plastics Corporation, and Chevron Phillips commit a laughable $1 billion to recycling and cleanup. The shame I felt when my niece asked me why I lack a job, the same shame we ought to feel whenever kids ask us why we lack the courage to fight for climate justice. We deserve it.

But the upcoming worldwide School Strike for Climate on September 20 and a 2019 study in Nature Climate Change fill me with hope. While this time the students invite the adults to join the movement, the study points out that the intergenerational dialogue on climate works. I’m heartened to learn from the North Carolina study that a child is in a powerful position to change the mind of its parent on climate. And conservative parents showed a bigger change in attitude. Parents love their children and they listen to them. Their wellbeing is more important than identity politics. Kids’ future is far more important than whatever the Faux News regurgitates. Better or introduce the education on climate in the curriculum.

I’m excited to see parents already rise for their kids. Parents for Future movement is one example. I’ve never thought that kids would unleash the largest global movement against climate change in our history. Looking at movements from 1900 to 2007, Erica Chenoweth concluded that no campaign failed when 3.5% of the population participated. On a global scale that’s 265 million, but as more parents empathize with their kids, we’re looking at an exponential growth, and a bigger movement on September 20. I’m optimistic. Let’s share meals with our kids without feeling like frauds.