Friday, 8 March 2019

Striking To Save The Planet

For A Planet They Can Live On: “They’re trying to get the attention of the adults who have let them down over the course of the last 30 years. They have every right to fight for their future.” - James Shaw, Green Co-Leader and Climate Change Minister.

TODAY WEEK (15 March) secondary students across New Zealand will bunk school to protest their elders’ feeble response to climate change. They will not be alone. Teenagers all over the world, most of them too young to vote, will join this Global Climate Strike

It’s a gesture, of course, and easily dismissed as such. But, gestures matter.

Martin Luther nailed his protest note to the doors of the local cathedral – and gave birth to Protestantism. Hone Heke chopped down the flagstaff at Russell – and started a war. Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus – and changed America.

In the oft-quoted words of the Taoist philosopher, Lao Tzu: “Every journey begins with a single step.”

More important, perhaps, that the student’s political gesture will be their elders’ political response.

Climate Change Minister and Green Party Co-leader, James Shaw, is unequivocal in his support.

“They’re trying to get the attention of the adults who have let them down over the course of the last 30 years”, the Minister told Q+A’s Corrin Dann. “[T]hey have every right to fight for their future.”

Shaw’s support is certainly not echoed by the Principal of Darfield High School and head of the Secondary Principals Council, James Morris. His response to the proposed protest strikingly symbolises of the adult world’s failure to “get” either the urgency or the scale of anthropogenic global warming.

Confronted with the likelihood of ongoing Climate Strikes, he told TVNZ’s Whena Owen that he and his fellow Canterbury principals were developing a “consistent set of guidelines” with which to “manage” repeated student protest.

It is difficult to imagine an “official” response more numbing in its negativity. The principals’ reaction to the anguished cry of a generation struggling to come to terms with the terrifying realities of Climate Change, is to come up with a plan for “managing” an orderly return to business-as-usual in the nation’s classrooms.

Was it too much to expect anything more from our educational leaders? Weighed down as they are with legal and administrative obligations, was any other response possible?

Such questions lay bare the sheer size of the problem the striking students are attempting to address. The people in charge, their mums and their dads, simply do not understand that they and their children are already enmeshed in the climate change crisis.

There is no “business-as-usual” to return to: no “normal transmission” to be resumed.

“Normal”, from the point of view of the human species, was the Holocene. The whole of recorded human history has occurred in the geological age which, like Goldilocks preferred plate of porridge, was neither too hot, nor too cold, but just right. We are already in the entirely abnormal Anthropocene. For the first time in the planet’s history, its fate is being decided by the behaviour of a single organism – us.

The Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change, precisely because it is tasked with achieving the broadest possible scientific consensus on the issue, is one of the more conservative contributors to the climate change debate. Its latest report, delivered just last year, nevertheless gives us just 12 years to dramatically reduce our global carbon emissions, or face global warming of a magnitude far beyond the possibility of human control.

New Zealand’s secondary principals have long conceived of themselves as the status quo’s first line of defence. This has made them bastions of conservatism – and proud to be so. But, to champion the status quo in the face of apocalyptic climate change, they’ll be casting themselves in the role of their pupils’ destroyers.

If New Zealand’s principals are looking for guidelines, then look no further.

Close your schools next Friday. March alongside your students. Speak up not just for their future, but for any kind of future worth having. Tell your pupils’ parents that they should listen to their children – because they are right. The only thing that can save them, and every other complex organism on the face of the planet, is change.

Change without prevarication. Change without reservation. Change without “ifs”, or “buts”, or “maybes”. Change in spite of the resistance thrown up by the purblind fools who led them to this awful turning point. Change as if your lives depended on it. Change because your students’ lives most assuredly do depend upon it.

Change until they are safe.

This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 8 March 2019.

13 comments:

Guerilla Surgeon said...

They will be dismissed, and they will of course be patronised. Just like the Parklands survivors and any other group of young people that tells politicians what they don't want to know.

Jens Meder said...

And what change in our way of personal living has been proposed to begin with ?

Tom Hunter said...

Dear Student Leaders

Instead of a strike, organise a Get To School Under Your Own Steam (GTSUYOS) event and make it permanent?

Biking, walking, running. Tell the parents you don’t need to be carted around by car to school and sporting events and parties. And hold to that promise in all weathers.

Get some real CO2 emissions reductions.

Chances of that happening?

Zero.

By contrast this is easy, fun and good for the soul as most people tell you how wonderful you are for caring.

Shane McDowall said...

I believe the most dramatic gesture in the history of New Zealand politics was Neil Robert's suicide bombing on the Wanganui Computer Centre in November 1982.

Nothing says " Fuck You Big Brother! " more clearly.

If Mr Roberts were around today he would probably be shocked at mass data surveillance and the ubiquity of cctv.

As for climate change I have come to the conclusion that it is happening, there is nothing we can do about it, so we will just have to do what our ancestor have done for the last 200,000 years - adapt.

Few people seem to know that we are in an inter-glacial period and that another ice age is, in geological term, just around the corner. Could be as soon 1,000 years.

Back to Cheech And Chong: "The world's coming to an end/ I don't even care. As long as I can have my limo / And my orange hair".

What others might see as fatalism/hedonism/nihilism I see as realism.

Shane McDowall said...

I believe the most dramatic gesture in the history of New Zealand politics was Neil Robert's suicide bombing on the Wanganui Computer Centre in November 1982.

Nothing says " Fuck You Big Brother! " more clearly.

If Mr Roberts were around today he would probably be shocked at mass data surveillance and the ubiquity of cctv.

As for climate change I have come to the conclusion that it is happening, there is nothing we can do about it, so we will just have to do what our ancestor have done for the last 200,000 years - adapt.

Few people seem to know that we are in an inter-glacial period and that another ice age is, in geological term, just around the corner. Could be as soon 1,000 years.

Back to Cheech And Chong: "The world's coming to an end/ I don't even care. As long as I can have my limo / And my orange hair".

What others might see as fatalism/hedonism/nihilism I see as realism.

greywarbler said...

You don't always get what you ask for, but if it is a good thing then try anyway. And there is a saying that sometimes when you get what you wanted, you find it isn't the right thing anyway. It is learning about life and trying to find the right path, not just following like we say sheep do. Because sheep don't always go docilely as watching Sheep and Dog Trials demonstrates.

I have been reminded of Muriel Spark's book The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, a schoolteacher; some applicable quotes:

“The word "education" comes from the root e from ex, out, and duco, I lead. It means a leading out. To me education is a leading out of what is already there in the pupil's soul.”
“Phrases like 'the team spirit' are always employed to cut across individualism, love and personal loyalties.”
“Culture cannot compensate for lack of hard knowledge.”
https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/13093.Muriel_Spark?page=4

greywarbler said...

Shane McD
What's realism in talking about 1,000 years hence? Tripe. Think of enjoying people around you, being grateful for good moments and friendships, and the amazing planet now, make some changes, and help others as they try to make changes and help the planet's health and that of society.
That is realism if you care to accept it.

greywarbler said...

Change is needed. If everything that we have been doing has produced the present calamity, this is obvious. But the brainwashed can't think of anything different. We need questioning, thinking youngsters. The ones now cannot rely on getting a job and getting an education in a functioning country with people who rub along together fairly well. We will have one where people don't believe in anything good, only in power and looking after their own. And we will get change all right, so much that we will be crying with the stress of it all.

Another old saying that some philosopher probably said, 'A stitch in time saves nine'. Do it now or we'll be stitched up, and the young people will say you didn't sit us down and explain what we are up against. And that is only thinking of climate change. The government is on about science and dropping the study of human beings and our society. Does that ring a bell in anyone's belfry? Is it because it will only be machines that will be doing everything and who cares about the other humans, not 'our fellow humans', not counting 'the number of souls' on board. All past attitudes will be redundant. Do the Chinese think highly of their philosophers now.
Confucius is out I think, what about Taoism?

George Constanza offers some change of idea and a new philosophy.
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKUvKE3bQlY

sumsuch said...

On National Radio Wallace-Wells of the New York Magazine article painted the soberest picture in the circumstance -- 2 % and the disaster of that can't be prevented but every half degree on from that is even worse. It's all over bar the shouting, every other issue in his light is pretty weak piss, homeopathic.

I put his interview up on Facebook and not a one addressed it. They think they know it enough but they don't. The younger ones see my extreme case as similar to those of less reason-based elders -- Alex Jones, religion et al. Cannot discern the vital difference of evidenced reality -- I'm just another shrieking woe-sayer to them.

But my complacence in the back of my head that I had a 'RIGHT' to comfort lasted into my 40s. Someone who knew and loved history. And the Romans always needed 3 wars to defeat their formidable opponents, the first just to wake up. It's obvious, but it isn't optimistic.

We knew this from 1990. The self-interests unleashed as the general interest from 1980 on delivered us here to our tombstone. But intelligence ever was just a device to achieve the same short-term ends as the other animals.

Guerilla Surgeon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Guerilla Surgeon said...

"But the brainwashed can't think of anything different."
I think it's more that some people are making huge amounts of money out of the present system and are working very hard to keep it going. Particularly in the US, but probably everywhere. Plus the human propensity to keep putting things off.

Shane McDowall said...

Tom Hunter. Perhaps you have forgotten WHY children are ferried everywhere. This started after the horrific murder of Teresa Cormack in 1987. She was six years and one day old.

It still fills me with deep sadness and blind rage when I think of her tragic fate.

Her scumbag murderer - I won't use his name - was eventually convicted thanks to improvements in DNA testing.

Scumbag should NEVER be released.

sumsuch said...

And Shane McDowall, as a Napier resident then, and a walker to primary school in the 70s, it was a vast over-reaction, understandable psychologically, but wrong. Just a help to the oligarchs in America, and here.


'Blind rage' caused the Napier police to persecute the wrong man for 10 years. A little child is safest in a democracy, not a red herring throwing safe place for rich dicks, as Douglas wished for.