An Extinction of Thoughtlessness?

Updated: Mar 17, 2019

I gave my 7-year old the option of striking from school yesterday if he could show he understood what the reasons behind the strike and find a useful way to devote to the day to acting against climate change. He showed he understood quite a lot, but it was me who stopped pressing him. I had to be honest with myself – he is too young to fully understand all the issues, and, more importantly, he is too young and precious to have the full consequences of what might happen explained to him. I am scared when I imagine his future, and I don’t want him to be that scared right now, at an age where he doesn’t need, and I don’t want, him to be.

If I were still at school I’d strike! What a wonderful and powerful thing these strikes could be. If they help abate climate change, we will all owe a huge debt to the students and schoolchildren who are taking this action. How brave they all are and how brave Greta Thunberg was to act as the catalyst (and continues to be in her talks at Davos and other places). These people are heroes to me and should be to anyone.

Of course, they are not the only ones pushing hard to have climate change and the crisis in biodiversity addressed in the way it needs to be. Chris Packham’s manifesto is the guide we should all take to the way we live – if the governments prove themselves fools on this issue, we need to take it into our own hands. Extinction Rebellion are showing us how to do this and inviting us to join them. Will Rundle and his team at Friends of the Earth are taking the government to court over its failure to protect future generations from dangerous climate change. Amnesty International has warned that the failure of world governments to tackle the crisis could amount to “one of the greatest inter-generational

Climate Strike, Lisbon

human rights violations in history”. And then there are the BirthStrikers, women who are refusing to have children until climate change is addressed responsibly by governments around the world. Why are we not all striking? Why are we not all following these groups?

A few years ago, I read the term ‘Age of Extinction’. Though I agreed with the essay I was reading, I thought (hoped) the term a little reactionary. There more I have read since, and the more scientists and academics have studied the matter, the more we realise that that term is not reactionary at all, even a few years ago. Now, it is the consensus, the absolute consensus. Anyone who has studied the matter and read the evidence cannot come to any other conclusion. So why are some people still ignorant of this, why are others not acting?

This really has been a crime of thoughtlessness. We have all been thoughtless. We have unthinkingly assumed what we were doing was OK, without questioning it. But now we have questioned it, we have very definite answers, and we still have time to do something about it. We can wake up, we can think! I’m a strong guy – ask anyone who knows me, anyone who has seen me on a football pitch, or seen me step into a martial arts contest against an opponent with far more ability than me – but this scares me. I’m a logical guy – in fact logic is exactly what I specialised in when doing my MA – and my reading of the material sees no other logical outcome than disaster if we do not wake up, start thinking, and act!

As Greta Thurnberg said: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.”


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