This article can also be found on klimafakten.de. It is an answer to Darrick Evensens guest contribution on klimafakten.de. To his article “FridaysForFuture: The right goals, but wrong words” I would like to answer with three basic thoughts:
It’s not about Greta Thunberg or Fridays for Future. It’s about all of us
To show something to a dog that is in its immediate vicinity is hopeless: you may point to at it as often as you like to, he will always look at the pointing finger. Maybe he will look at your face for a moment – and then back to the finger. It is impossible to make him see the same that you do.
I keep thinking of that in light of the discussions about Greta Thunberg. She is trying (and with her the Fridays for Future Movement) to point out clearly and urgently the possible climate collapse and our gradually closing timeframes. And everyone is staring at Greta. What she is saying. What she is wearing. How she is traveling. Instead of dealing with the urgent questions and coming to action.
But maybe this is exactly the function – chosen more or less conscious – of these discussions. None of what the Fridays for Future´s are saying hasn´t been clearly stated already by countless others (the young people emphasize this again and again). But it does not help. We are and remain in defense. There are those who react with hatred for Greta Thunberg, in network posts that are so vicious that I can not even read them to the end.
And there are the well-intentioned voices, to which Darrick Evensen certainly belongs with his contribution. However, with his “you are heroes, but …” he joins the chorus of voices, which I consider as problematic.
“The message of the children and adolescents is half-baked”, writes Evensen, “it lacks necessary nuances”. That makes me, frankly, somewhat stunned. Why should these young people care about the nuances? They have a threat scenario like no generation before. They have no choice but to either take care of their school career or their studies (that is, for their personal development) – or to fight for a livable future for all of us. I am shocked by the situation in which we brought them.
It is not the task of the students, but of politics and civil society to finally take the right measures so that the world will be worth living for them.
The question of who should do what first, is a form of defense that only delays action
The now so urgently needed measures to reduce CO2 and protect resources are very simple. Which is in some sense shocking: they are so simple and easy to understand, but, of course, not easy to implement. But even if the resistance of the economic profiteers is massive, it is still clear what needs to be done.
But Darrick Evensen stated: “The language of young activists treats science as an incontestable arbiter of actual politics. (…) With their main slogan, students falsely assume that science itself can tell us what people should do.”
Of course it can.
And scientists do so: “We have to stop using fossil fuels,” says Alexander Popp, a researcher at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). The latest IPCC special report calls for three measures: reducing emissions; withdrawing CO2 from the atmosphere, e.g. through afforestation or carbon capture in the soil; changing eating habits and waste less food.
The questions that Darrick Evensen brings up in his article – who should take which steps first – I think are idle and pointless. We have spent too much time with such questions. And distracted ourselfs. And postponed acting. For me personally, it is not the question of whether I give up meat or fly or whether I demonstrate with the young people as often as I can. Everyone should contribute what is possible.
Science tells us, what will happen when we land at 1.5 degrees Celsius, 2 degrees or more. The number of natural disasters, of starving people and of climate refugees will continue to rise, social cohesion will be increasingly jeopardized and that will affect us, but especially the next generation.
We are running out of time. How Darrick Evensen comes to the conclusion, that “listening to science is a first step that many politicians have already done”? It is beyond my understanding. Environmental organizations and citizens’ initiatives have been fighting for climate and resource protection for so long, substantiated by scientific observations, data and facts. But its mostly commercial interests that gain the upper hand. In the meantime, people are increasingly taking legal action and are suing, for example, politicians who fail to take care of their citizens.
In the meantime, the global threat situation is so concrete that the answers become simple: every individual, every party, every nation that is willing to take necessary steps counts. And we need to put pressure on all policy makers we can reach within our means. What else could we do?
It took me a couple of days to realize that my emotional response to Darrick Evensen’s thoughts was a reaction to the lack of emotion in his contribution. Of course, one can argue that emotions have no place in a factual or scientific discussion. However, I believe that this very attitude represents a huge inherent problem in a situation where there is no such thing as an objective position. We can not look at the experiment from the outside. We are part of it. See also the article: A new approach to emotionality
We do not need any further discussion
One may agree with Darrick Evensen that ethical, moral, normative questions must also be addressed in this process. But why should the youth assume responsibility for that? Again, I can not conceive the author when he says, “My urgent call is that they (Fridays for Future) help us to understand the normative reasons for how and why we must act.”
Do we really need children to explain to adults why they should not completely destroy their lifeworld !? Surely that is the job of the adults, who have to support the fight for the climate. Without overloading the Fridays for Future with further demands. They already have enough to do with their own fears for the future, with the hatred of the climate deniers and the projections of those who idealize them.
Let me quote a final, unfortunately drastic picture on the question of values. In his novel “A History of the World in 10 ½ Chapters”, Julian Barnes describes an experiment on “Altruism vs. Selfishness “, in which researchers put a female monkey with his newborn in a cage. “The mother nursed and looked after her baby in a way that was probably not too different from the mother behavior of the researchers’ wives,” Barnes says. “Then they turned a switch and gradually heated the metal floor of the cage. At first she jumped uncomfortably, then she began to move from one leg to the other, holding her young in her arms the whole time. The ground was made even hotter, the ape’s pain even more obvious. At some point, the heat of the ground became unbearable, and the ape, as the experimenters put it, had to choose between altruism and self-interest. She either had to suffer extreme pain and perhaps death to protect her baby, or lay the infant on the ground and stand on it to avoid being harmed. In any case, sooner or later self-interest had triumphed over altruism. “
What I mean by that is certainly obvious: we must not debate so long until we come into a situation in which we can no longer discuss values, because the survival instinct has long since become stronger. The temperatures are already threateningly increased. The global situation has drastically worsened. We have to accept that the experiment we have done with all of humanity has failed – and end it as soon as possible. For this to succeed we must try to act emotionally and intelligently. And try to reach the people with the message that even in our latitudes life is not necessarily worth living, when the worst scenarios arrive. This realization is by no means penetrated to all. Enough of the words. Close the computer, get out into the street, whether with Fridays for Future, Parents for Future, Scientists for Future, with Extinction Rebellion, the environmental organizations, or, or …. find out the next date of climate strike.