What's The Point Of My Generation's GCSEs If Our Planet Is Dead?

My knowledge of Elizabethan history and Percy Shelley’s poetry are useless if my generation have to live in a world so ecologically damaged it can no longer support human life.
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I’m 16. Often over the last couple of months, in a sleep deprived state and buried under a pile of books, I’ve found myself asking an alarming question: what’s the point of my GCSEs if the Earth’s dead?

In the ashes of a burning Britain, where Februarys are strangely hot and moors burn, the role of education must radically change. What I, and my peers, learn about climate change is a vapid letdown – it falls short by only teaching us about the geographical realities of climate change. Here’s my plea to teachers across the country: stage your own classroom ‘extinction rebellion’. Craft a curriculum that one that drives my generation towards action, not empty despair, political uproar not a change to paper straws.

We all need to fully grasp that we may be heading for the last season of humanity. Our existence is not guaranteed by some supreme force in the universe – our collective ego shouldn’t trick us into believing this. Just like the dinosaurs, the po’ouli bird native to Hawaii that went extinct in 2018 and the human-like homo habilis we as a species are mortal. Bearing this in mind exam scores or Ofsted inspections should not decide what a good school is. The number of young people it produces who are standing up for justice should.

All of what I’ll be examined on circle theorems, my knowledge of Elizabethan history and my ability to analyse Percy Shelley’s poetry are useless in a world so ecologically damaged that it can no longer support human life.

Schools claim they exist to prepare my generation to be productive members of society – but if we don’t act now, they’ll be no society to be productive in. My peers who hope to be journalists, doctors or musicians will have no-one to heal, no-world to document and no-world to play music in. Books won’t be read. Joy won’t be had. Progress won’t be seen. Not because of our shortcomings, but because of our elders strangling complacency.

Standing up against the rapid destruction the climate shouldn’t be a pursuit of the middle classes alone. By opening up the fight for the climate justice to those from inner city comps like mine the movement will have new dynamism. It can reach across Britain’s almost binary economic divide. An agenda of climate change action driven by young people from where I’m from will garner support from communities disenfranchised and left behind by the last decade of austerity.

It’s easy to see why young people from where I’m from feel disconnected from the climate change movement. When faced with Herculean challenges today, it’s easy to forget about tomorrow. This isn’t just the reality of inner city London. In the USA mass incarceration plagues poor black communities. In the slums of Dharavi finding clean water is a daily struggle. If the climate change movement does not embrace the suppressed voices of the marginalised its goals, no matter how benevolent they are, will not be achieve.

The battle to prevent toxic air, rising sea levels and food shortages, all the consequences of a world with a broken climate where dystopia imagery becomes our reality, can unify. Britain is splintered. Our economic interests are so different we’ve started to lose sight of each others humanity. The economic destruction of climate change will make the 2008 financial crisis or the Great Depression look like a mere dip in the stock market. Groups previously left unscathed will be affected. And those who today are the punching bags for global economics will be plunged further into turmoil.

Out of the climate change movement a new politics of unity can emerge. Where in the battle to prevent irreversible climate change new voices, once mere echoes lost amidst the roar of prime minister’s questions, will be heard as the world scrambles to adapt to the needs of the nature.

Political parties will be forced to, out of electoral necessity, drive climate change into the heart of their manifestos. People will take to the streets in droves. Businesses will have to abandon short-termism.

This will only happen if two conditions are met. If the climate change movement represents society not a small subsection. And if it offers a future worth investing in.

Athian Akec is the youth MP for Camden and a campaigner on knife crime, climate change and Brexit


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