How to make protest against the ecological crisis successful: Young or old? Young and old?

We are experiencing a a deep going socio-ecological and finally economic crisis, which will lead to catastrophic or existential consequences within a lifetime. Unfortunately, people who contributed the least, will suffer the most, ie future generations.

Therefore, it is only a logical (but cynical) consequence that currently not those who caused this crisis but who will suffer from the crisis, ie many future adults (ie children, teenagers, students) , stand up for a livable future and an intact biosphere. This gives the movement of future adults a crucial role, but also puts emphasis on the generational gap or the generational friction. As an adult, who is willing to acknowledge his share of responsibility, I would like to reflect on this issue and develop thoughts how to solve the crisis:

  1. A solution of the crisis needs the raw power of the young and their willingness to change to solve the crisis. As Max Planck said that science advances a funeral a time [1], and therefore, while some of the paradigms and experience of current adults may be helpful, we should give young people a lot of opportunity to shape their future. As an example, I propose to reduce voting age stepwise to 15 years of age . This age limit is somewhat arbitrary, but inspired by 15 year old Greta Thunberg, who stood up for a livable future first in public, when she was 15 years old, and turned out to be wise beyond her physical age.
  2. Adults should provide support. Adults have more access to resources than non-adults, so they should help to enable their protests. For example, adults can allow them to join the protests instead of going to school, giving them a ride, making sure that the kids are safe during the protests, helping with organizing the protests, designing posters, changs, banners (if there is a need for it, and adults are not in the way of action).
  3. Adults should provide initiative and leadership. As has been frequently pointed out by Greta Thunberg, current adults apply various strategies to avoid going into the core of the problem of the ecological crisis, esp the climate crisis. Adults frame the protests as a youth movement, discuss issues of truancy and school discipline, or dropping the weight of solving the crisis on the shoulders of kids , while widely ignoring the existential threat we all are facing and their responsibility. Therefore, instead of just following the movements and protests young people have initiated, current adults should take the initiative for forms of protest and climate action. For example, I have started a blog [4] to teach myself more about the current crises and how to solve them. I have started a “Sustainable Saturdays” protest [2] to give adults, who cannot participate in Fridays For Future protests because they have to work to provide for themselves and their families, the opportunity to protest, network and change society (admittingly, with little support from other adults sofar).
  4. Youth protests should be inclusive while maintaining the clarity of  its demands. Although discriminating groups like young vs old might strengthen the group identity of future adults and give them a feeling of power, I am afraid that by following this narrative, the movement will fail to gain its maximum momentum. Therefore, I would strongly argue for being inclusive (“Everybody is welcome, everybody is needed!”). For example, at the Global Strike for Future in Stockholm, 2019-03-15, I heard something to the effect, that adults should move back, and let kids move closer to the stage, because it was an event of the kids. As an adult, this statement made me feel less welcome, and devaluing the climate action I was contributing to the protest. 
  5. The youth should escalate their peaceful protests, while making use of the strong social norm not to harm children and teenagers. At present, I feel that many protests by young people are much to disorganized, ineffective and party-like so the real issue and their demands get lost. In addition, I feel that politicians and business and industry leaders will ignore those harmless protest having good reason to expect that these protests will fade out because people are just to busy and want to go on with their lives. Therefore, I think it is time to escalate the protests and make them more painful to decision makers, to force them instead of giving polite support to the youth, to give an answer on which side they are on. The youth should become aware of the leverages they have to put pressure on decision makers and current adults in general. For example, an escalation of the protests could mean:
    1. to (continue to) school strike, which means to break laws (in some countries) and making the narrative visible, that these children feel neglected and abused by adults (“Why should I study for the future, if there is no future.”). This created already some controversy in the past, although this was also used to distract from the climate crisis.
    2. to move the protests to institutions of political power, head quarters and plants of industry and economics, and traffic hubs, like airports.
    3. to demand climate action or to refuse to pay pension contributions if those adults who fail to solve the ecological crisis now will retire in the future, since the inter-generational contract has been broken.
  6. The youth should be disruptive. As an adult I have to acknowledge that the youth is growing up in a different mindset of technology and connectivity than me (I have still used microfiche catalogs at the university library!), which should give them an opportunity to disrupt and change the world quicker or more fundamentally, than my generation can imagine.

See also the blog “First strike” by George Monbiot on a related topic [3].

References:

[1] https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Max_Planck

[²] https://www.facebook.com/sustainablesaturdaysuppsala/

[3] https://www.monbiot.com/2019/02/22/first-strike/

[4] http://biosphere.wilmarigl.de/

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

http://wilmarigl.de

en_USEnglish
de_DE_formalGerman en_USEnglish