The world took to the streets between the 20th and 27th of September to protest for climate action. Empowered by the movement led by Greta Thunberg, protestors demanded action be taken to address climate change. Greta Thurnberg, a 16-year-old girl, was forced to drive a movement against the most significant issue of her generation. She shouldn’t have to lead us, and she couldn’t be clearer about this fact as she begs world leaders to do something about it.
Statements made by some New Zealanders have made it clear that they think this is a ‘debate’. National party leader Simon Bridges stated that he didn’t think climate change was an emergency. The New Zealand Herald decided to publish a few malicious articles that portrayed climate change opinion as fact. An example of this being an article titled “Eve McCallum: It’s time to take a step back on climate change.”
“This is no longer a debate, it’s brainwashing, and we are all falling for it. The other day I was driving to work and was almost made late by climate change protesters refusing to let cars through. This is where we have got to in the climate change debate, at a state of complete ridiculousness. People are interfering with everyday hardworking New Zealanders’ lives because they have decided their opinion is right. Let’s correct that. This is no longer a debate, it’s brainwashing, and we are all falling for it. I am not a climate change denier. I, like…”
Unfortunately (or fortunately), the rest of the article hides behind the herald’s “premium” paywall; so regrettably, one must pay to view this piece of ‘premium’ journalism (due to some internet ingenuity, I was able to read the full article). It turns out we are “brainwashed” into reducing pollution. That we are brainwashed into supporting renewable energy. Brainwashed into trying to create a better world. Oh, the horror. The idea of people interfering with “everyday hardworking New Zealanders” is overplayed and caters to a crowd that would rather dismiss facts if it meant their lives could operate more conveniently.
Are those protesting not “everyday” New Zealanders? Are we “other”? Are we protesting only because we’ve “decided our opinion is right,” as she says? This article is malicious for ‘premium’ journalism. Eve McCallum can see a problem, now all she needs to do is realise she’s looking in a mirror and not out the window. We did not decide our ‘opinion’ is right. Science proved it is. She’s half right when she says this is no longer a debate. Calling climate change a debate makes it seem like you could factually argue both sides. Climate change is not up for debate. None of this is up for debate. The science supports those protesting. There is no neutrality on climate change, and that seems to have finally sunk into the heads of those who would have previously denied its existence. Now, they change their tact from climate scepticism to dismissiveness. At each stage of progress, people continue to try and slow it down, happy with the status quo, living a quaint undisturbed life. If they aren’t denying, they’re dismissive. If they aren’t dismissive, they are indifferent. At any which point, they are slowing progress towards an informed New Zealand.
After learning 170,000 New Zealanders took to the streets to protest, National MP Judith Collins tweeted, “So 96.5% of New Zealanders are quietly getting on with their lives…”. Well, what number would impress you, Judith? Maybe these numbers can change your mind. Two hundred and fifty thousand people in New York, three hundred thousand people in Australia, three hundred thousand from the UK, 1 million people in Italy, and 1.4 million people from Germany with 350.org reporting over 7.6 million participants worldwide. It became the 2nd largest protest in New Zealand history. Collins utters that percentage as if it supports her rhetoric, but no protest failed in creating some form of systematic change after achieving an active and sustained protesting participation of 3.5% of the population. Collins tweet serves as a rehashed “Does protesting even work?” tagline. The argument has shifted from “Climate change isn’t real!” to “I believe in climate change but will do nothing about.”, forever changing the goalposts.
Meanwhile at the University of Auckland, Vice-Chancellor Stuart McCutcheon has received heavy criticism for his inaction not only against the presence of white supremacy stickers but also his refusal to take a stance on climate change. He calls climate change “one of the most significant issues of our time,” yet with regard to supporting the climate protest, told students he “[does] not, however, consider that it would be appropriate for the ‘university’ to support this action.” One of the most significant issues of our time, and you refuse a stance on it? The University of Auckland becomes the only university in the country to withhold support for the protests forcing faculty of science members to speak out in support of the strikes. Universities have a moral obligation to take a stance on significant issues facing society. Any inaction that comes from a decision is an action and can, therefore, be judged on its morality. The university lands on the side of inaction and needs to change its stance before it is written into the wrong side of history.
Mike Hosking published his latest piece, “Hyperbole and hot air,” where he writes, “Kids telling off adults gets you nowhere.” Well evidently, neither does saying nothing. Should we lie and tell adults they are doing a great job? Greta Thunberg receives all kinds of hate now. They criticize her clothes, her illness, her face. They go to great lengths to talk about everything except her message. Greta said at the UN conference on climate change that “she shouldn’t even be here” – that she should be in school. Mike Hosking noted that this “invites a lot of people, no doubt under their breath, to go ‘good, why don’t you go back and try that?’” What is the point in attending school, gathering all this knowledge, and earning a degree if you still won’t listen to the educated? To the scientists. What is the point in studying for a future we won’t have? Telling these kids to shut up is like turning off the world’s smoke alarm without putting out the fire.
People don’t like Greta for one reason. It’s because people don’t like being told what to do, especially by a kid, even if they’re right. Truth comes second place to these people’s insecurities. I don’t have to state the statistics on climate change because, at this point, if the facts haven’t convinced you, reiterating them won’t change your mind. The last argument they’ll have will be Mike Hosking shouting, “What if it’s all a hoax, and we create a better world for nothing?”