OPINION: Dear COP 26, please save humanity. Thankyou

Greta Thunberg

Dan Mobbs says Greta Thunberg's message “Don’t listen to me, listen to the scientists," is apt during the COP26 conference - Credit: Anthony Quintano/Flickr

By way of introduction, I’m a human.

It’s taken me six million years of evolution to get here.

It’s no coincidence that the atmosphere has the exact right levels of gasses for my lungs to work. It’s pretty specific, I can tell you.

When I was hiking in the Himalayas, just a couple of miles up, I was gasping for breath and my head was pounding.

There is only one planet for us humans. There’s no Planet B.

As well as being a human I’m the chief executive of MAP, a youth charity.

These are my thoughts about the ecological emergency we are facing.

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‘We’ being all life on Earth. So why should I be writing on this?

Well, young people are constantly telling us it’s their priority.

Some 75% are frightened about their future according to a survey led by Bath University. Climate anxiety is common in counselling. Many young people are campaigning for change.

For MAP it’s deeper still. Our vision is that all young people know what it is to be valued. Trashing the only planet we have and leaving it a complete mess for young people is showing that we don’t value them at all.

The more I talk to young people about this issue, the more I realise how interconnected it is with their view of the future.

Many young people already don’t expect to have what previous generations took for granted – a secure home, retirement, stable jobs, free higher education, cheap holidays… and now even nature itself. We older folk were supposed to be custodians of this planet.

Our planet, and therefore humanity, is in deep trouble. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s most recent report said “it is unequivocal” that climate change is being caused by humans, and that heatwaves and floods are affecting “90% of the world’s regions”, and that we require “immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions” in emissions.

Meanwhile, Gail Bradbrook, co-founder of Extinction Rebellion just says “the big goal […] is to save as much life on Earth as possible”. When the UN are sounding more upset than Extinction Rebellion we know we’re in trouble.

As we know what the problem is and what’s causing it you’d think that we’d be sorting it out. Yet we’re not. Not only do fossil fuel companies continue to invest billions to extract fossil fuels to burn, they also get huge government subsidies. They continue to make big profits, set far-off targets and delay change. It’s also hard for us to comprehend the scale of the problem.

The thought of catastrophe creates reactions of fear and helplessness. Doom-scrolling doesn’t help (note to self). It’s often framed as “something in the future” even though it’s happening right now.

So what can you do? Where can you find hope?

You can seek the truth. You can find space to reflect on what is important; connect with like-minded people. I reckon a good question is “what would you like to see on your gravestone?”

Dan Mobbs, chief executive of Mancroft Advice Project (MAP).

Dan Mobbs, chief executive of Mancroft Advice Project (MAP) - Credit: Archant

Probably something like “they were so kind”, probably not “they had a big house”. Remember the first lockdown?

People said they could see more clearly what made them happy – time with friends and family, good health. People want change. Ipsos MORI found four in five people are willing to “step up and do more”. Our leaders are out of touch with what people want and are letting you down. You are not alone.

You can do what you can. Whether you’re going more vegan, buying less stuff, cycling, recycling; using green energy – you are making change, you are creating momentum, you are brilliant.

Tell people what you are doing. You are role-modelling. People need to know more about what they can do. We also know what we do individually isn’t enough. That’s why people are campaigning – in the street, online, on the news.

You can speak up for people; making sure they have the support they need; especially global communities most affected. It’s pretty difficult to do anything if you are hungry, homeless or marginalised. Getting by might take everything you have.

You can demand more from your government. This is big. It needs big leadership. This won’t be solved by market forces.

We saw big intervention during the pandemic. It can be done. When the NHS was set up after the Second World War the government didn’t say “hey, any volunteers for a focus group?” No. This was massive nation-led mobilization and huge government investment.

Nothing less will do. Massive green energy schemes, green jobs, transport, insulated housing – the solutions are all there.

Targets for 2050 aren’t good enough. Demand targets for next year, every year.

We were the first nation to industrialise and have a carbon debt to pay. Wouldn’t it be great if this time we use our spirit and ingenuity to lead an international green revolution?

A final thought. It’s amazing that young people are campaigning and getting media attention.

But, the climate crisis is not their fault. We need action from older people in positions of power; those who are responsible.

As Greta Thunberg says: “Don’t listen to me, listen to the scientists."

Dan Mobbs is CEO of Map, a Norfolk charity who helps to provide the best support for young people across the county


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