I took my kid to see Greta Thunberg and all we got was this lousy social panic
New York City public school students were given the day off to protest the world with Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. We figured the Department of Education must have good reasons for proclaiming that a day of climate change action was more important than a day of STEM, ELA, GGB and math, so my son, his friend, and I decided to join them. A massive international protest seemed like as good a reason as any to miss a spelling test.
Thunberg made headlines for starting the international Climate Strike movement, where kids ditch school and take to the streets to tell the world it’s about to end. Grown-ups just love it. When all the kids stand up and repeat back to you just what you’ve been telling them to think this entire time, you know your indoctrination is working, and it’s probably a damn fine feeling.
The climate strikers gathered in Manhattan’s Foley Square, right near City Hall. Adults with expectant smiles sprinkled among the teens were so pleased to take a back seat to the kids and cheer them on. The kids were exuberant for the excused absence from school, complete with the opportunity to take over the streets and yell “free the nipple” and “fuck this shit” as loud as they possibly could. A pervasive chant was: “we won’t let our planet die, climate change is not a lie.”
My kid had made a sign but on the way out the door, decided he didn’t want to carry it. Lots of kids in the crowd seemed annoyed to be carrying their signs. I overheard a mom talk to her daughter about how meaningful her sign was. It read: “Our World Our Responsibility.”
Proud parents took pics of their kids with quippy protest signs and posted them to Instagram. Beaming faces glorified in their precocious young protesters’ protestations. Exuberant parents seemed to say: Let’s get behind my offspring and let them show us the way! An older woman held up a cardboard sign that read “and a child shall lead them,” because for sure Greta Thunberg is the second coming.
These parents and educators who don’t let the kids cross the street by themselves, think they’re too fragile to take state-mandated tests, and have parental settings tuned up to 100, believe children can save the world with a few signs, some loud chanting, and maybe a drum circle or two.
We popped into a pizza place for some traditional New York protest pizza. A lady in the pizza shop was horrified at how many people were out. “What is this? Is it some kind of protest thing? How we supposed to get anywhere with this?” she asked, proving that there’s not much that can saturate the city’s consciousness.
One of the big selling points of the climate strike and the movement to end climate change is that the world is in such dire straits that it’s on the verge of ending if we don’t act now. Do we really only have 12 years to avoid total climate collapse and the end of the Anthropocene Era as we know it?
I asked some kids on the street when they thought the world would end. Gina told me “I feel like what we need now is a broad-based movement rooted from the awareness of everyone. So I feel like movements like these could really raise awareness and bring the social cause to everyone’s knowledge. I feel like not a lot of people know about the issue and once the ideas get out we just need authoritative support and everything will be cool hopefully.”
Given how the world is in such bad shape, I thought the kids would want to weigh in on the birth strike movement, which posits that it’s irresponsible to have children and everyone should stop.
I asked a young lady what she thought, and she told me “I don’t even know, I’m the wrong person to ask, ask Andrew.” Then she covered her mouth with her hand, pointed at Andrew who declined to be interviewed and giggled.
Two girls near Battery Park were willing to talk to me about the birth strike. “We know about it,” one girl said, “but not to say that we can speak on behalf of participating in it.” She asked me to elaborate on it. “It talks about how it’s not right to have kids…”
She jumped in. “I just think it’s absolutely disgusting,” she said, “someone’s body, it’s like their choice if they wanna have kids, and if they don’t, then they don’t, and it shouldn’t be a rule, just like women’s rights, and it’s your body, your rules.”
I asked her how long we have left on the earth. “I don’t want to think about it,” she said, “I just wanna think that I’m gonna make a change and that this generation is staying woke, and the amount of kids in high school here, like I’m 16-years-old, and I’m standing up for what’s right along with so many other people, and if this continues this is the next generation, we’re the kids that get to vote in the next election.”
Her friend chimed in. “I think it’s misrepresented that the earth itself won’t end necessarily right away, but it will be irreversible in the coming months if we don’t keep like temperature change below like 1.5 degrees Celsius, then all changes will be irreversible, but in terms of the world ending, it’s not as immediate but it’s definitely going to happen if we don’t do anything about it.”
I asked two boys what they thought of the birth strike movement. “Everyone has their own choice. We’re free humans, bound as individuals in a social contract with our government, and so, y’know, we’re free.”
“It’s a personal choice issue,” his friend said, “nothing to do with the government to control it. But I kinda do subscribe to that thought that’s like we’re gonna mess up the planet so much that it’s like a bad idea, but it’s a very personal choice and it’s nothing you could like define by a governmental policy.”
“And how long do we have left?” I asked.
“Hopefully,” said the burgeoning birth striker “if we get stuff done hopefully we survive but like if we don’t do anything in the next five years, maybe 80, 90 at most. But it depends because scientific advancements are growing so fast they like might figure out carbon capture, save us all, we don’t know. It’s a big question right now.”
The method of the climate strike is to proclaim crisis, incite panic, and spur action. When people are in crisis mode, they do not take time to think clearly, they simply react, with immediate survival as the foremost goal. Panic is not a great tool of social change, it’s a tool of stampedes. Action undertaken from a place of “house on fire” catastrophe does not lead to good decisions for the future, it leads to quick decisions on the fly that appear to get you out of imminent danger.
Most of the kids out in the streets were New York City high schoolers, and they really seemed to think they were on to something. They wanted the grown-ups to stop making everything bad, and they said that loudly, provocatively, and with a catchy beat.
Eighth graders I talked to back in my Brooklyn neighbourhood that night had heard of the climate strike, but none had gone. Everyone figured they’d just get in trouble for ditching school. Plus a lot of them are prepping for the intensive high school placement tests this year, and they didn’t want to fall behind. They’re taking things one crisis at a time, and the supposed end of the world isn’t as relevant as the real end of the term, to them or their parents.
After a bunch of drums came through, the boys were holding his ears and ready to go. They’d been ready to leave since we got there, pizza aside, and wanted to go play video games. We didn’t stay for the speeches, because frankly, if the end is nigh, I’ve heard it all before, and there’s no need to freak the kids out. Plus, we still had spelling to study for.
The Department of Canadian heritage, which is run by the Liberal Member of Parliment Steven Guilbeault, is paying journalists to write stories on climate change, according to Blacklock’s Reporter.
When launching the Local Journalism Initiative in 2019, the then Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez said that “our government is committed to ensuring Canadians everywhere continue to have access to accurate, diverse and relevant news.”
Despite this, these state-funded subsidies have gone towards writing stories on climate change. The Canadian News Media Association, for example, was paid $14.4 million last year.
As well as this, the Yukon-based publication The Narwhal received a subsidy after writing, “It seems like British Columbia is always on fire… The Narwhal tracks government commitments to climate change and separates the wheat from the chaff.”
The Narwhal then went on to publish stories like ““Meet The Alberta Climate Activists Who Say They’re Not Scared Of Jason Kenney.”
Another publication that received a subsidy was Nunavut-based Nunatsiaq News, who also received a government grant to pay for a journalist to cover “the effects of climate change on the Arctic.” Likewise, The Winnipeg Free Press was given a grant so that they could hire a reporter who was dedicated to climate change.
the Local Journalism Initiative is a key component of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s plan to revive the ailing industry of journalism in Canada. In 2019, Trudeau committed nearly $600 million in what has become the controversial media bailout.
A Greenpeace co-founder has been de-platformed from a sustainability conference in Regina according to Regina Leader-Post. The conference is called Reimagine Conference 2020: Roadmap to Sustainable Cities.
Patrick Moore was supposed to be a main speaker at the Energy and Sustainability Conference at the Queensbury Convention Centre this May.
On Friday, Mike O’Donnell announced, at City Hall, that Moore’s speech may take away from the conference. He noted that Moore’s speech was more about climate change and less about the main goal of the conference which is to discuss sustainable energy.
One of the main discussions of the conference is about how to make operations and faculties in the city completely renewable by 2050.
“We’re not hosting a climate change conference and so we feel that we need to refocus,” O’Donnell said.
O’Donnell mentioned that they originally contacted Moore asking him to talk about “a sustainable energy future.”
The Regina Leader-Post reported O’Donnell saying, “He has now announced in this last while that he wants to speak about a different topic. I’m not interested in that.”
Today, Moore tweeted, “Pleased to be getting some coverage exposing the City of Regina’s cowardice in de-platforming me. I did not intend to focus solely on climate change in my keynote, but no-one tells me what to say. I am independent and proud of it. I am sad for Canada.”
This week, Moore noted that his talk was called “Fake invisible catastrophes and threats of doom” and he wanted people to listen to the speech before judging it by its title.
O’Donnell said that the city will still be paying Moore for the event due to their contractual agreement. The agreement was to give Moore $10,000 and to cover expenses.
On Friday, O’Donnell said, “We have a contract. We’ll honour our contract.”
“We are just now speaking with the National Speakers Bureau and so we will obviously have some discussions with them but we will honour the contract.”
Moore responded to the announcement on Twitter saying, “I have been de-platformed, cancelled, and round-filed by the great City of Regina for daring to question the God-Given wisdom of the catastrophists. Actually, I don’t want to be part of such a stupid exercise. It’s impossible to make a city 100% renewable.”
Berlin-based climate activist Karin Louise Hermes has left the climate movement because she couldn’t deal with the white people anymore. She felt like her concerns as a person of colour, about the racist impact of climate change, were not adequately represented or respected. What this means is that identity politics is eating itself.
We’ve heard tell about the climate crisis facing our world. The rhetoric goes that we’ve got maybe 12 years to turn this ship around before we all suffer something akin to the fate of the dinosaurs and cause our own extinction. Greta Thunberg practically dropped out of school because of it. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says it’s probably a good reason to not have kids. Extinction Rebellion blocks roads and public transit to draw attention to the dire consequences of climate change. But for Hermes and Vice magazine, those white people just make saving the world impossible.
Hermes was asked to speak at climate change awareness-raising events, and often told the story of her family in the Philippines that had suffered tragic losses during and in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. The predominantly white Germans and Europeans in the audience were receptive, empathetic, and moved by her words.
Hermes said she “felt required to tell my Filipino family’s experience during speeches and rallies because this form of “storytelling” was the only thing that would move a mostly white European audience to an emotional response of climate urgency—even though it was exhausting telling the story, especially since any mention of hurricanes in the news gives me anxiety.”
Any cause worth undertaking is exhausting. The work of “world-saving” is not easy. Hermes was probably not the only one who was made tired by her efforts. Her climate activist colleagues would probably be horrified to know that their empathy and concern for Hermes’ family was racist. In fact, Hermes wasn’t the only climate activist of colour who has had this experience.
“Many other climate activists of colour have described similar experiences of tokenism,” she writes. “Māori and disability rights campaigner Kera Sherwood-O’Regan (Kāi Tahu iwi from Te Waipounamu) found that as an Indigenous person at the UN climate conferences, organizers would suggest showing support and ‘passing the mic,’ but the same people would be the ones taking up space in negotiations and speaking to the media.”
This forces the question of whether fighting to prevent climate change is more or less important than securing a prominent place for yourself and your personal story in front of the mic. This could be asked to a person with any collection of identity markers. What’s more important, the message or the messenger?
If the answer is the messenger, or something more nuanced, such as the messenger is the message, then how can there be a unified front opposing climate change?
Perhaps there can’t be. Perhaps there are as many messages as there are messengers, and the cacophonous voices against climate change can not be stitched together. Perhaps climate change activism will be eaten by identity politics.
Hermes believes that “Anti-racism and anti-capitalism need to be made part of organizing.” But is the lack of inclusion of those things in the mainstream climate change movement a detriment to that movement? Is there anything to be said for picking a simple cause and going all-in without any modifiers? Apparently not.
“Fortunately,” writes Hermes, “there is now a growing BIPOC Environmental & Climate Justice Collective in Berlin, where we share these experiences of being silenced or tokenized and work together on how to link anti-racism and inequality in climate justice.”
She quotes Sherwood-O’Regan, who said, “As we grow and climate change becomes a harsher reality, privileged activists need to learn to de-centre themselves and meaningfully support Indigenous, disabled, queer, global south, POC, and other marginalized people who are on the frontlines of climate change.”
Because for Hermes and so many others, the messenger is more important than the message. The messenger is the message. Despite the terms used, and the advocacy for the voices of persons of color, this call for people of one skin colour and ethnic background to be decentered in favour of centring people from different skin colours and backgrounds is about tribal dominance. And it’s silly. And it won’t save the world.
Two Canadian politicians are arguing on Twitter about how climate change should be addressed in the classroom.
United Conservative Party MLA and Minister of Education Adriana LaGrange argued “there is no room” for radical activists in the classroom. Lagrange gave Extinction Rebellion as an example of the type of activists she believes have no place in schools.
NDP MLA and Women’s Issues Critic Janis Irwin responded to LaGrange’s comments saying that there is “absolutely” room for groups like the Extinction Rebellion.
Extinction Rebellion identifies itself as a “nonviolent civil disobedience activist movement.” It was founded in 2018 by Roger Hallam and Gail Bradbook.
The group most notably held a sizeable demonstration in London in 2019 where over 1,100 arrests were made in 11 days. BBC News reported that the protest cost police about $12.9 million.
In an article posted in Medicine Hat News, LaGrange wrote, “climate change must be taught in a way that prepares our students to address the issue rationally, not in a way that purposely seeks to cause fear and anxiety. There is no room in our classrooms for radical activists, like Extinction Rebellion, whose demands include shutting-down Alberta’s oil and gas sector by 2025.”
Irwin argued against LaGrange’s statement on Twitter saying, “When I taught social studies in very conservative parts of rural Alberta, I ensured kids were exposed to multiple perspectives. I didn’t force my beliefs on them. They didn’t leave my classroom as radical activists, but they left with a broader understanding of issues.”
A separate commenter replied to Irwin writing, “You have to be kidding here. No room for extremism in our kids classrooms. That’s why we voted the NDP out. They can be educated ‘about them’ but not ‘by’ them. Glad you are on the outside looking in.”
The Post Millennial reported earlier this week that the City of Edmonton had children take lessons from an Extinction Rebellion activist.