It has been an emotional week. On the grand scale of things, Greta Thunberg addressed the Congress of the USA and dressed them down. At the same time, they accepted a Whitehouse paper blaming Iran for the destruction of two Saudi oil terminals, briefly limiting oil exports. Old allies quickly rallied to support their friends, with the UK Government over-quick to join the clamour for war, or what they term “retaliation”, whilst rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of more arms sales to Saudi Arabia. War is the biggest of all global warming gases.
More locally, the Labour Leader of Plymouth City Council, the viciously anti-Corbynite career politician, Tudor Evans, announced his support for the reopening of the Plymouth Airport, heralding the increase in aviation and its associated carbon emissions at the same time as speaking on platforms applauding the school students and declaring Climate Emergency. More planes. Such hypocrisy can only mean there’s a General Election in the offing, requiring those seeking personal power to face both ways at once.
Against his tide, we are all hectically building tomorrow’s Climate Strikes, holding meetings, leafleting workplaces and publishing like mad in print and SNS. This morning our focus was an old workplace of mine, full-up with the high-paid managers of health and social care in the City. Workers I had once hot-desked alongside told me the stark horrors of desperately eroded services for child protection, the threshold for services now absurdly high and the rate of referrals of adolescent self-harming sky-rocketed. There are no therapeutic services for self-harming or most other indicators of mental distress.
Two headteachers arriving for a high-class, highbrow, self-congratulatory meeting told my co-protagonist in no uncertain terms that we had all the science wrong. There is no emergency, the climate is fine and they are restricting environmental activities and learning in their schools to reducing plastic littering. Apparently, we were at liberty to believe whatever we liked but we were wrong. Plain wrong.
When I learnt at the weekend that some schools in Plymouth were establishing what they euphemistically terms “lock-downs” to prevent children leaving the premises (legally questionable it must be said), and even more threatening exclusion or even expulsion should students take part in the School Strikes, I penned a fuming screed fast and furiously to the local paper (see below). Children’s Rights appear to no longer exist.
I had previously written to Devon County Council, by way of a heads-up. They were spending £250k on a new team to manage preparations and adaptations for the Climate Emergency stated by the Councillors. There were to be special committees linking together most departments into a strategic plan of action to manage the social impacts of extreme weather, food shortages, power cuts and social unrest, but the Plan did not include direct links to those services (now outsourced and neo-privatised) responsible for safeguarding children or adults. The catastrophe will not be responded to with care, but control.
Most others who bothered to stop this morning to receive a leaflet flipped through their car window, their new cars nevertheless guzzling gas and spewing emissions, saying they had heard nothing of the student strikes and weren’t interested. More than a few said they did not have children themselves so wouldn’t know. These, for the record, were the very same people who make the policies and produce the services to all children in Plymouth. Yet, apparently, children’s concerns about future social breakdown were not on their radar, nor of interest to them.
By the end of leafleting this morning it had dawned on we precious-few leafleteers, whilst we had woken too early on too many occasions to leaflet the City, and bedded-down far too late at night after desk-top publishing and printing, that only a tiny handful of the population were aware of tomorrow’s Global Earth Strike, and few of those were ready to take part.
We have had a few hundred school children actively engage with the previous actions, out of a City population of 48,000. Tomorrow, we hope, up to a thousand people of all ages will protest in Plymouth City Centre, and we will engage a new cohort of University under-grads and Primary School placarders into our Cause. Most importantly we will, by sheer effort, have wedged a foot in the door of the trade unions with the potential to activate five-and-a-half million workers.
The issue here is scale. The sheer magnitude of the task. The World will come to an end with a significant proportion of the human population denying its coming as they gasp their last. We can only persist in seeking to activate a sufficient number on the other side – tens of millions in every country – to produce the critical mass needed to overcome the stuffed-up anti-science prejudices and hubris of the narcissistic deniers, and save the Earth.
We have a world to win, but will have to wrench it forcibly from the rapacious cupidity of the powerful and their over-pampered bureaucratic courtiers. But right now, I’m off to mend the megaphone!
18th September 2019