Are you sitting comfortably?
Well that was a bit awkward.
Organisers of #climatestrike NZ reckon that about 170,000 people turned out nationwide for the events of 27th September 2019. That's about 4.25% of the population.
For the climate strike at the Cambridge town hall on that date, attendance peaked at 24, and I'd like to congratulate and commend every one of them.
It is, however, about 0.12% of the population of Cambridge, which is less than the national turnout by a factor of about 35.
Do we, in Cambridge, really care that much less than the rest of the country about climate change? Probably not; that would be an absurd claim to make.
It does suggest though, that we in Cambridge do not feel comfortable addressing the issues.
Anecdotally speaking, I have met a few people over the last month, some prominent in the community, some not so, who have surprised me with the things they have said with a straight face:
- "So, this Greta Thunberg, who's manipulating her?" - You assume she's being manipulated because you don't like what she's saying - that makes you a bit patronizing.
- "Just the way she looks, she's evil!" - So she looks a bit cross; she must be wrong then, and evil to boot.
- "When I was a child we walked to school, it was better then, these kids doing the complaining want to be driven everywhere" - Perhaps, but we are the ones doing the driving - would you have turned down a lift?
- "outrageous and irresponsible to suggest to a young person in this country that the world will be over in 10 or 12 or 20 years" and "there are no signs out there that backs [sic] that up". - You're joking right? As far as I can see it's the young people trying to convince us that there is a problem, and they are quoting some pretty solid science.
- "I won't be changing my flight habits but we should stop all those people who fly everywhere telling us what we should be doing for the planet" - This is an old one; to have a crack at the hypocrisy of someone who is trying to do something. The problem is that in doing so one appears to be suggesting that doing nothing is a better option.
We all know that nobody is perfect. In our house we don't eat meat. We try not to eat dairy. We recycle as much as possible. We are stockpiling 'soft plastics' in the garage for the day when we can recycle it locally, as you can in Auckland. And we are considering a week in Rarotonga next year, which means flying. I could say, in our defence, that we haven't flown anywhere for sixteen years but that doesn't make our proposed flights any less damaging to the environment.
I go to cross fit in Leamington three mornings a week. It's hard, and I often feel like giving up, but I stick it out (most of the time) because I am part of a group of people sharing a common goal, and we are all in it together. If I tried to do the same thing by myself at home I wouldn't achieve the same result because it would be too easy to give up when it gets tough.
In terms of the future of mankind on this planet, my view is that the changes required are systemic as well as local; governments should act immediately and decisively, and the public should welcome the changes, however difficult they may be to implement.