YOUTH MOBILISE ON CLIMATE
The institution called “a demonstration” is a gem in our democracy tool box. It is a simple and visual way of indicating to our elected politicians as well as society at large that there is an issue, which a larger or smaller group of citizens considers important enough to leave the comfort of the house or apartment and meet in plazas and streets. It is also fun to meet strangers you have not met before, and share your commitment to a cause with them.
At least this is the feeling I had yesterday, when I gathered with thousands of youth – and a few of my own age – in front of Christiansborg, the parliament of Denmark. We listened to a few people speaking, and we walked peacefully around the building, chanting: “Those of walking together here also want a future together”. For an elderly person, it was great to sense the engagement, frustration, commitment, happiness and anger of the young people, who have been motivated by the Swedish school girl Greta to take to the streets. To use demonstrations to show the people in power that they are no longer willing to accept the lack of action from our leaders.
While walking around Parliament, I was reminded that 30 years ago, I published a book for exactly the age group I was now demonstrating with. It was called Jorden er smuk, and it built on the Report from the Brundtland Commission called Our Common Future. This was the report that the UN published as the basis for the conference on development and environment in Rio in 1992.
I have often argued, just like the youth do these days, that we have enough knowledge to act decisively, but we lack politicians – leaders – who have the will to act on the basis of existing knowledge. Actually, in the 90s in Denmark we did have a group of politicians, led by the Social Democrat Svend Auken, who were willing and daring enough to set new standards. Unfortunately, when the Liberal Party won in 2001, they seemed intent on pushing the environment and climate change agenda backwards. Only now they seem to change, forced by the science we have in front of us today, and because they understand that voters have finally understood how serious our situation is, in Denmark as well as globally.
Walking though the rain yesterday, some of the young students asked me why I was there, and I told them about my own history, including the book. I also quoted from the foreword of the Brundtland report [about how human actions are fundamentally changing life on our planet], and the presentation by the Norwegian Prime Minister, Gro Harlem Brundtland, because she spoke to the youth in particular – acknowledging that it will be the youth of the world that has to clean up the mess, generations before them have created.
My book from 1988 was an attempt to provide basic information on the key global issues driving the planet in the wrong direction. We have even more information today, but I would still argue that what we offered 30 years ago was both good and relevant. The book covered the following 50 issues, and I mention them all to illustrate how broad the agenda is:
- Our common future is threatened.
- The need for ‘sustainable’ development.
- Population and human resources.
- The population explosion.
- Not employment for all.
- Education for both boys and girls.
- Polluted water is a killer.
- Vulnerable population groups.
- Land is overexploited.
- The fertile lands.
- The food pantry of the world.
- Fertal land is disappearing.
- Deserts are spreading.
- Agriculture for export.
- Other types of agriculture.
- Forests are disappearing.
- Forests as a commodity for trade.
- The richness of the tropical forests.
- The forests of the future.
- The seas belong to all of us.
- The riches of the seas.
- Fishing in crisis.
- Pollution of the oceans.
- Energy is critical.
- Comsumption of energy.
- The many faces of the energy crisis.
- Global warming is a real threat.
- Nuclear energy in retreat.
- Unchanged comsumption of energy in 2020.
- Industry towards disaster.
- The global factory.
- Multinational production.
- The circle of poison.
- Holes in the ozone layer.
- The decay of the cities.
- Leaving the rural areas for the city.
- The crisis of the multimillion cities.
- The slums.
- Trade and resources.
- The global market.
- Dependency on natural resources.
- Protectionism of the rich countries.
- The debt of the poor.
- More development funding.
- Conflicts and the military.
- A militarised planet.
- International trade in weapons.
- Environmental crises lead to conflicts.
- Disarmament leads to development.
- What do we do now?
My book was not unique, others wrote about the challenges as well, and others continued to speak and write about the need for action – without necessarily being heard. But I believe that my own book was one of the first in Denmark that presented the Brundtland agenda to Danish students. Walking with the students yesterday, I felt a certain pride of the little I have contributed. But I also felt ashamed of not having been more outspoken, and I really felt frustrated about the too little we have managed to change over 30 years.
I feel grateful to the youth of today for pushing our leaders into action!