I wouldn’t have imagined that only months later thousands of children would strike for climate change, following the Swedish footsteps of another 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg who would become a global celebrity and describe the UK's response to climate change as "beyond absurd" to political leaders in Westminster, whilst outside waves of climate protests would take place and over 1,000 arrests made. As the support for Extinction Rebellion soared, the group even greeted me on the way to work as a ‘slow cycle ride’ of over 70 people headed to Newcastle’s Tyne Bridge during rush hour to slow down our journeys. As commuters complained, my rebellious side was glad to see so many young people protesting and to know the important message wasn’t locked up in London.
Finally, it seems there is a revolution – ignited by our youth - and it is being televised. Whilst causing disruption (and even streaking or glueing yourself to the streets) may not be tackling climate change it’s certainly turning media attention to the biggest issue we have faced - time to move over Brexit! Whilst the news over Easter sadly focussed more on how protestors must let London “return to business as usual” (the Major of London’s advice) than on what they had to say, Sir David Attenborough’s one-off programme ‘Climate Change - The Facts’ was aired on BBC One.
Perfectly timed, Sir David broadcast his most powerful statement on climate change. The cameras turned away from the majestic scenes of nature, which often shield us from the truth, to expose the grim scenes already taking place due to climate change around the world including forest fires, collapsing ice cliffs, flooded homes, and species unable to survive the changes. A memorable scene was the heatwave which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of bats - you could even hear the harrowing cries of their orphaned babies. The programme’s openness about the fossil fuel industry “the most profitable businesses man has ever known” also reminded us that continuing “business as usual” is exactly how man has caused this destruction – choosing money at the cost of our planet and the next generation’s future.
When Sir David claims we are set to create “irreversible damage to the natural world and the collapse of our societies” it’s surely time for us to listen. Sir David explained in a recent interview how young people “understand the simple discoveries of science about our dependence upon the natural world” and stated his “generation is no great example for understanding – we have done terrible things.”
You may have seen the Wind in the Willows trailer in the media for The Wildlife Trusts’ new campaign which calls for a ‘Wilder Future’. The twenty first century future exposed shows just a handful of those terrible things which our species now face - too many roads, river pollution and intensive agriculture. Whilst those characters in the story may be species familiar now, will they be to the next generation if we continue “business as usual”?
However, it’s not too late and this is why the young are demanding immediate action and environmental groups and conservationists are campaigning for a strong Environment Bill to put nature into recovery. Northumberland Wildlife Trust are calling on people of all ages to join the Trust’s national campaign. I hope that anyone young reading this will also sign up as I know it’s your generation’s energy, voice and power that is needed to secure a Wilder Future before it is too late.