OPINION: Why caring youngsters feel destruction of our planet is personal

Eva Garayalde, 12 (left), Dominic Douse, 14 (middle), Mae-li-son, 10 (right), protesting on climate

Youngsters protesting about climate change in Burston, close to the Norfolk/Suffolk border in 2019 - Credit: Emily Thomson

We don’t spend enough time listening – really listening – to young people.

When it comes to naivety, it feels like tables have turned.

The nous, gravitas, commitment and willingness to make a difference belongs to the young, while the slopey shouldered with all the power spout hot air and fluff kicking the can of responsibility down the road as far as they can.

Last week, I spent time with inspiring, passionate and articulate young people, sixth formers and undergraduates, united by one passion, doing something about climate change.

They take the facts personally - the last five years have the hottest record since 1850, sea levels are rising by three times as much in recent years and atmospheric carbon dioxide is at its highest levels in two million years. Code red for humanity.

You may also want to watch:

It is personal. It’s about their future and their children’s. They don’t get why older people don’t share their sense of urgency, priority and anxiety.

Extinction Rebellion protestors are reflecting the Code Red in their actions. Whatever we think of how they are doing it, their sentiment reflects that of young people.

Most Read

They're watching climate change unfold in front of their eyes and are so impatient at the apparent lip service and sound bites about the most crucial issue in their lifetime.

They are frustrated and confused by governments' failure, questioning the conviction of those in charge, despite the speeches, targets and statements of intent.

Environmental fears are profound and eco-anxiety a real thing, after spending their lives engulfed in the ocean of emotions brought on by a looming climate disaster and are furious at those who came before them and failed to act.

They fear for entire cultures threatened and species that will never return and feel guilt for being a part of the systems that have brought about all of the pain.

And they feel let down

Nearly 60% of young people questioned across 10 countries said they felt very worried or extremely worried about climate change, with more than 45% saying feelings about the climate affected their daily lives.

Three-quarters of the 10,000 people aged between 16 and 25 said they thought the future was frightening. More than half (56%) said they believed humanity was doomed.

Two-thirds said they were sad, afraid and anxious. Many felt fear, anger, despair, grief and shame - as well as hope.

One 16-year-old said: "It's different for young people - for us, the destruction of the planet is personal."

The research by Bath University in collaboration with five universities was funded by the campaign and research group Avaaz and the biggest of its kind.

The UK young can’t be blamed for feeling sceptical as the prime minister limbers up to welcome world leaders to COP26, when just six years ago he was casting doubt on human-caused climate change.

And, in 2013, the man now heralding offshore wind as the backbone of the nation’s future energy security said wind turbines couldn’t “pull the skin off a rice pudding.”

His party too has long been a bastion of climate change denial viewing anything ‘green’ as lefty swampy nonsense. Now they clap furiously to the claptrap about building back greener and green industrial revolution.

Young people see through the rhetoric, targets and hot air to the emptiness of the promises and pledges and see it as bluster and sound bites with little substance leaving their world and future on track for disaster

The survey’s author Caroline Hickman, of Bath University, told BBC News: "This shows eco-anxiety is not just for environmental destruction alone, but inextricably linked to government inaction on climate change. The young feel abandoned and betrayed by governments.

"We're not just measuring how they feel, but what they think. Four out of 10 are hesitant to have children.

"Governments need to listen to the science and not pathologise young people who feel anxious."

The failure of governments on climate change may be defined as cruelty under human rights legislation. Six young people are already taking the Portuguese government to court to argue this case.

Young people are not just anxious, they are angry that no one is taking heir future seriously.

Add to their climate fears, the effects of Brexit and the pandemic we are living with now, the last 18 months of lockdowns and education disruption, and there’s a cocktail of desperate discontent.

It will be the young people that ultimately hold politicians accountable, will not tolerate delay and will up the pressure.

The next decade will be fascinating.

Bigger car, bigger temper?

Why do drivers get so angry – and are getting angrier?

There’s an emerging clear pattern of the bigger the car, the more impatient and cross the driver.

A 4x4 waits for no woman, and if that woman happens to be in a smaller car, she will be told in no uncertain terms, where to go.

Perhaps it’s all about dominance, control and looking down on small cars. Or perhaps these are the type of people who buy bigger cars. I’m not sure what comes first – the car or the ego.

As time ticks by, drivers are getting more aggressive, less polite or willing to wait and more antsy, shouting, honking and gesticulating for the most minor hold up or inconvenience.

It would be comical if it didn’t pose serious risks to safety, and not lest the health of the red-faced het up drivers.

There are more cars on the road, people are choosing bigger vehicles and road works are an occupational hazard. Put up, shut up and quit the raging.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter