“Does Your Grandchild Skip School On Fridays For The EARTH?
Grandad, what would you say if I skipped school on Friday?” “For the climate!” In February 2019, the Fridays For Future movement found its way into our family life.
Our family leads a privileged life. We own a comfortable house with plenty of space for us all, its equipped with running water (both hot and cold), a heating system that warms our home at any time, and a fridge that is always filled to the brim. We separate our rubbish, avoid plastic, and for 30 years we have bought organic produce.
I was about the same age as my grandson, Fabio when I experienced my environmental/political awakening.
We use buses, trains, and bikes to get around, we support environmental and conservation associations, our plants are insect-friendly, and ‘green electricity’ runs through our plug sockets. We could be happy with our achievements, yet this is not so. We are furious! Humanity faces the biggest challenge in its history and far too many people still do not care.
I was about the same age as my grandson, Fabio, when my I experienced my environmental/political awakening: The United States (US) and Russia threatened the world with excessive nuclear powers, the reactor at Three Mile Island nuclear power-plant melted, Dioxin poisoned many in the Seveso disaster, and forests across Europe died. Times were troubled and so was I — just as 14-year-olds are.
There were plenty of reasons to revolt and express one’s outrage, so I became an anti-nuclear activist, a peace marcher, and a climate protector. Our concerns initially fell on deaf ears at that time. In fact, politicians defamed us, the nuclear power lobby discredited us, and the government cracked down harshly on our protests. We wanted to change the world in a peaceful way and we ended up being severely punished. We were furious!
Today, more than 40 years after my political awakening, Fabio asks me what we achieved with our protests. The answer hurts — unfortunately, we didn’t achieve enough. We put an end to forest decline and phased out nuclear power. Our rivers and lakes contain water suitable for drinking and more than 30% of our electricity comes from renewable energies.
Looking back, our successes appear very small to me given the problems to be solved. Of course, in the 70s and 80s, we also fought against the narrow-mindedness of elders, our fathers, and grandfathers. They fought against our struggle for the better world that we wanted. Today we are the narrow-minded elders and it is our generation who pull the strings worldwide. The politics rule. The economy controls us. And the planet is ruined.
Our responsibility for future generations does not end as we get older. It remains committed to them. Unlike any other generation in the western world, we have had the unbelievable fortune to live in peace and prosperity for a very long time. And unlike any other generation, we created our carefree life at the expense of our descendants and the rest of the world. We have allowed people — yes, even children — in faraway countries to suffer poverty and hardship at the hands of our insatiable appetite for energy, food, and material possessions.
Greed is the drug that has made us forget that someone must pay for our over-indulgent lifestyle. Nature has long since presented its bill. For too long we have ignored it. So let us stand by our commitments and pay our debts, immediately without delay. To our children and grandchildren, we leave an Earth that has been exploited, polluted, devastated and destroyed by us; an Earth on the verge of climatic collapse. We can still prevent the apocalypse. All together and worldwide. Including us seniors.
For too long political appeasers and climate change deniers have lulled us into a false sense of security with their ‘Everything is fine’ and ‘It’s not going to be that bad’ mantras. Nothing is fine and it’s going to get even worse. Objectors and lobbyists can dispute the mental maturity of young people to fully grasp a complex issue such as anthropogenic climate change but they cannot dispute ours!
Children are our responsibility, we defend them against all hostility and opposition. We speak for them when they cannot. We choose environmental protection in those instances where they are not allowed. We are our children! Always and unconditionally!
Today, Fabio is a regular truant on Fridays For Future and that’s great! From the school strike of a young Swede on behalf of the climate, a worldwide, multifaceted and colorful protest movement has long since come into being. It is no longer only the young who stand up for climate justice. We are there too, Grandparents4Future. For the future of our children and grandchildren. For a habitable world.
Translation from German by Lara Davies-Jones