Last Friday was a big day for children around the world including Malta. They put down their books to march for change in the way the world’s leaders (political, business, social, etc) are responding to climate change. Some have called it the first global climate strike. Events were held in most countries around the world, from Sweden (where it all started) to Malta, from Uganda to India, from the United States to the Philippines. The slogan used for last Friday’s happening, is the title I used for this week’s contribution.
It was an event promoted by Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish student, who has been very vociferous about the negative impact of climate change. This person’s single-minded determination has inspired millions of people around the world and earned a nomination this week for the Nobel Peace Prize.
The reactions to this event were a lesson in themselves and, to my mind, justify the strike. The UK Education Secretary was reported as having remarked that the disruption caused by the strike increased teachers’ workloads and wasted lesson time. These reactions show clearly that there are still too many people who do not subscribe to the view that the world’s climate is going through a dramatic change, that the impact of this climate change is catastrophic to say the least, and that entire communities (and for communities please read persons) are at risk of survival.
Many considerations can be made about climate change, its impact and last Friday’s strike. My line has always been to put things in an economic perspective, and within an economic perspective it can be encapsulated in the term economic sustainability.
If we look at the whole issue of the environment and climate change in particular, it is evident that our current way of living is not economically sustainable in the long term. If nothing is done (as those whose policy is to deny climate change, ignoring the fact that the abnormally cold weather in Southern Europe this winter was actually the result of global warming), we could be having a global shortage of water, we could run out of certain natural resources, the air could become unbreathable, and our capacity to produce wealth could be severely diminished.
We are forgetting that the natural environment was lent to us to be good and diligent custodians to pass it on to future generations (which means our children, and the children of our children, and their children). We use it for our well-being in general as well as our economic well-being. However we have no right to destroy it or use up resources to an extent that our children and the children of our children will not have enough left. Or worse still we impair significantly the productive capacity of the future by our present behaviours.
Analysts are speaking of economies across the world facing severe unemployment because of loss of economic activity. They are also speaking of migration flows that are much larger than what we have today. The total cost of such circumstances has been estimated to be in excess of €14 trillion. That is something like one-fifth of the world’s gross domestic product.
We also need to take account of economic activities shifting from one country to another because of climate change and the environmental damage being caused. The news of whales being beached and found with kilograms of plastic in their stomach is a sign of this environmental damage.
Malta will not be immune from the impact of climate change and as such we also need to do our share to protect the environment. Last Friday students may have missed lessons because of the strike. However they have done themselves more good than any lesson in class would have done. Moreover they have also taught us a lesson which would make sense for us to heed.
If we want to safeguard the economic future of our children and the children of our children, we must do more to combat climate change and to stop the damage being done to the environment.
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