Confronting Climate Change With Child Activists? The World Needs To Build A Problem-Solving Geopolitical And Diplomatic Framework
Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old environmental activist from Sweden, has become a literal poster-child for the climate change movement. After attracting international attention through her own personal protests and a well-regarded speech at the United Nations, the teenager was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Thanks to her, thousands of young demonstrators have been inspired to participate in coordinated protests across the globe. Global warming, and climate change in general, is an existential threat to the human race. It is certainly a far greater issue for younger generations. Unfortunately, the current generation of global leaders has not even begun to confront the challenge and younger Americans understand that. At the same time, children do not have the answers. The reality that children are taking the lead is truly a reflection of the multiple failures of adults.
Clearly, children have a vested interest in fighting climate change. Issues like climate change can, however, only be addressed through science, engineering, and business with the aid of public policies. These are not the professions of children. Young people should be encouraged to take an interest in these fields, which places them on a path to become experts in these arenas and eventually contribute to the problem-solving process, but they are not the ones who can, or should, lead on this and other threats to their wellbeing. That is the responsibility of adults. Not only do these climate change protests by young activists highlight the failure of adults to act on climate change, they also demonstrate the failure by adults to take responsibility for their inaction.
Young people like Greta Thunberg have a natural desire to find their voice and do something valuable, but it is adults who capitalize on their desires, guide them to causes, and showcases their activism. There are a lot of causes to care about and a lot of young people like Greta Thunberg. It just so happens certain causes gain greater notoriety for extended periods. Climate change happens to be one such issue. It also just so happens that certain individuals, such as Greta Thunberg and the likes of school shooting survivor turned activist David Hogg, are able to capture the attention of the media and public when given a chance to speak. It is these individuals who are then used to garner attention to the issues that matter to the adults who want to build popular support for them and push the solutions they favor. Although young people provide a great deal of energy to causes and they can draw attention to key issues important to them, the problem with this approach is that it simply empowers manipulative special interest groups via the natural emotional attachment people have to children.
Climate change is an existential threat, but it is not an imminent threat. In practical terms, it is a threat akin to that of planet-killer asteroids, mini-black holes, and solar cycles. The threat is real and serious, yet it is not a threat that should paralyze all of society nor is it the highest priority threat to human civilization. More importantly, climate change is not a threat that has an immediate impact on the lives of people, so not enough people care enough to fully address it. That said, climate change needs to be addressed. The unfortunate truth is that there is a lack of a problem-solving culture in the world. If the geopolitical framework existed to address the plethora of others social problems that need addressed now, humanity could easily solve climate change. Climate change is a complicated problem requiring multiple solutions that all governments must be willing and able to adopt. Building a geopolitical and diplomatic framework for problem-solving should be a priority of the influential, not an emotional campaign to push public policy priorities.
Quite frankly, using the youth to sell public policy options with debatable effectiveness is part of the failure to lead on existential threats like climate change. Those who lead on issues need to be able to lead on the problem-solving process as well. It is, of course, important for the young and the old to call attention to issues that matter to them and to voice their opinions on what solutions they feel are best. Problem-solving, however, requires the ability to either derive potential solutions and/or assess the ability of solutions to actually solve the problem at hand. In the realm of public policy, it requires diplomacy and popularity, or at least the trust of critical people. The inability to confront climate change is a product of those in power failing to build popular public policy options that can address climate change without imposing painful costs onto the human population. It is also a failure to cultivate support for solutions, which address the concerns of those groups that want action and those groups that oppose action out of fear for their interests.
Read old posts