photo: James Crawley
Of all the media coverage surrounding the COP21 talks on Youth and Future Generation day there is one slightly alternative hashtag that fills me with excitement: #ItsOurFuckingFuture
As hashtags go its pretty spot on, fully encapsulating the anger, the frustration and the call to action necessary for young people in our world to start mobilising. It's our fucking future; let's reclaim it; let's take charge of it; let's create a world vision that our leaders are too flaccid to shape themselves.
Climate change is often painted as a disaster, an unyielding carbon bubble leading to our mutual destruction of life on earth. The fatalists shout through megaphones about temperatures rising, seas rising, death tolls rising, unemployment rising, immigration rising. You could almost sense Vivienne Westwood moving towards climax as she stood before the crowds in London, aroused by the nihilist vision of our world burning to cinder. It's time to stop with the scaremongering. Fear is a misguided incentive. It motivates few, injects fear in many, inspires bad poetry among teenagers, and leads to little but helplessness and inaction.
Climate change is much more than that. Climate change is an opportunity; an opportunity for young people to fight for a better world; a just world; a fairer world; a world where the people take control of our natural resources which have been monopolised by corporate elites for too long. We have an opportunity to challenge the neoliberal narrative; to challenge the nihilist climate narrative; to challenge the corporations that are destroying our world; and to challenge our political leaders who stroll through the oil fields hand in hand.
Photo: James Crawley
In our world, resources we need for global justice and equality are controlled by a small elite who yield huge profits by maintaining monopoly of the energy sector. They will never willingly give up this power. The neoliberal capitalist system expects and demands the majority of people have to compete in order to succeed within its limited framework, rather than accepting that the system needs to change to a more sustainable model that meets everybody's needs. In order to achieve an effective climate solution we have to be more proactive in sharing these counter narratives. An alternative to corporate controlled energy systems is needed which benefits the majority of people rather than benefiting those who profit from market capitalism.
Hope lies beyond Paris. If we look beyond Vivienne's tax avoiding ego and allow our vision to adjust, we can catch sight of a more appealing narrative. Within our world we can already see communities transitioning towards a post-growth society at a grassroots level, creating alternatives to our current economic system based on the principles of health, wellbeing, and happiness. We are in the midst of a renewable energy revolution with communities in Germany, for example, decentralising their energy systems and restructuring through public controlled energy cooperatives, while Costa Rica looks set to become carbon neutral by 2021. Our world is becoming more sustainable, growth becoming less reliant on fossil fuel consumption, and divestment an irreversible momentum with pledges exceeding $2.6 trillion.
Photo: James Crawley
We can see alternatives in the local food movement, with more communities supporting local produce rather than supermarkets, such as DE4 Food in Derbyshire, and an increasing number of people are starting to grow their own.
Enterprise is becoming more creative, more innovative and more experimental. Liverpool's first vegan-only restaurant, Give 2040, is a prime example, offering a one-for-one campaign, where they'll donate a meal to the homeless for every meal they sell. In Bristol, Bee The Change has been setting up communally run beehives around the city as a solution to our declining bee populations, while facilitating an education programme enabling people to live more sustainably.
Today is Youth and Future Generations Day at COP21, with young people coming together from all over the world using the language of change and collaboration to create a unified social movement that transcends national boundaries. The energy, the enthusiasm, and the excitement for changing our world is a huge cause for hope within itself. A solidified network of wellbeing is developing with young people reimagining our system to one based on cooperation, trust and care; a world where we consume less energy with fewer environmental consequences. The green economy is expanding as a low carbon alternative that is proving more resilient to the uncertainties of global markets.
In the UK our government is on the attack, both at home and abroad. The vote in favour of bombing Syria undermines the UN negotiations in Paris for increased climate security based on the values of peace, justice and unified international consensus, while the cutting of renewable energy subsidies shows the signs of a corporate coup from the shale gas and nuclear industries. Young people need to start building alliances with each other, with NGOs and with trade unions, taking direct action where necessary to avoid corporate destruction of our planet. Above all else, today is our opportunity to be seen and to be heard, saying in a clear and unified voice - #ItsOurFuckingFuture - we refuse to be passive while you sell it off to the highest bidders.