Meaningful Change Must Come from Government
By Kate Pruden.
On a planet which is home to 7.7 billion people, our impact as individuals often seems negligible. Endeavouring to drive less frequently and eat less meat can feel like pointlessly swimming against the tide while 1 million species are threatened with extinction and at least 80 billion new items of clothing enter the world each year (1). For the climate movement to maintain and build its momentum, governments around the world must act on behalf of individuals to provide incentives for both businesses and consumers to make choices which help- rather than harm- the environment.
The government’s principal goal ought to be to protect and improve the welfare of its citizens, yet evidence of government interaction with industry might imply that its allegiance lies with promoting the welfare of the Bottom Line. In her first year as PM, Theresa May’s government received over £390,000 in funding from oil companies (2), but this gift doesn’t come without a price tag; in March, Oil and Gas UK demanded £200bn in investment to exploit remaining stocks (3). May’s parting vow to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 (4) is a miserable attempt to pardon a government which has appeased big business through its support for fracking and the construction of a third runway at Heathrow. The pledge is further enfeebled by a clause allowing the government to abandon the target in 5 years if other countries do not take similar action. Why? Because this might damage the health of British business.
Vying with billion-pound multinational companies for the government’s attention and support sounds like a daunting task for any individual to undertake, but as the global School Strike movement has demonstrated, acceptance of the facts coupled with optimism and ambition to alter our trajectory can blindside these faceless corporations and force a new agenda into Westminster. Our actions and decisions are our only tools to express dissatisfaction with ‘business as usual’.
Any change to respect the planet is important and welcome; it is crucial that the issue isn’t side-lined because it alienates large groups of people who infer that a complete overhaul of one’s lifestyle is necessary to get on board with the cause. Bearing this in mind, we should equally strive to do as much as we can individually to voice our frustration with the government’s efforts so far. Rather than striving for unattainable perfection, aiming to be heard and to reach as many people as possible heralds a greater chance at bringing the climate crisis to the public attention.
Climate activists are easily condemned for anything from consuming dairy to traveling via a vehicle which isn’t a bike. These criticisms fail to recognise both the limits of individual efforts and the need for activism in order to be heard. 1.4 million school children uniting across borders to voice distress about the climate crisis sends a louder and clearer message than that of boycotting fast fashion or having a meat-free day. Although some media outlets revel in distorting the values of the school strikes to depict strikers as wayward truants, any pictures or commentary from the events dispel this myth. Far from opportunistic, climate strikers are informed students who are puzzled by the adults’ reluctance to act on the facts that we have been taught in science lessons. Striking isn’t an excuse to bunk off school; it is a means to send a message as loudly as possible that states that, although we cannot vote, the burden of rectifying the climate crimes of today will fall to us in the future.