The age of the consumer is over. What comes next?
Originally published back in Feb this year…
I’ve been watching the school strikes across Europe for a couple of months now, ever since a 15 year old Greta Thunburg spoke at the UN and gave the audience such a dressing down that I’m sure I could see Nelson Mandela smiling from heaven.
I think my favourite quote from her speech is “You are not mature enough to tell it like it is. Even that burden you leave to us children.”
Although “You only speak of the green eternal economic growth because you are too scared of being unpopular” is also rather pithy.
And “You say you love your children above all else. And yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes.” hits the nail quite cleanly. Greta sees through hypocracy like it’s obvious. Which it frequently is. And she has no time for it.
Some newspapers have described the school strikes as ‘playing truant’, a patronising response to the hundreds of thousands of children involved. They aren’t playing at anything, they’re uniting to do something for the benefit of all. They’ve observed that the existing systems, constructed over the ages by those in power and influence, consistently put their own individual and short term gains above the medium and long term interests of all humanity and indeed, all life on Earth. Is the last and dying act of the old generation going to be the burning of the birthright of everyone to follow them?
In a few short decades we may look back at people knowingly responsible for accelerating climate change as perpetrators of crimes against humanity. And not just humanity, crimes against the entire planet and everything on it. This is what the children already see, and they are not going to let it go unchallenged.
These school strikes aren’t going to stop, they’re going to increase in scale and frequency, and it’s fantastic to see.
And whilst politicians and lobbyists and last stand fossil fuel advocates push to accelerate environmental destruction and climatic collapse these children see them, and us, for what we are. The problem. And they simply refuse to be part of it.
They have realised their ‘weaknesses’ are their strengths. Their innocence. Their righteousness. Their forgiveness of us, whilst refusing to bow to our false authority, demonstrates a maturity and high ground that they will keep and build upon.
Children are right to school strike. It’s their future the older generations are negligent of.
If we all do this right, what we will see happen will be nothing short of revolutionary. The next generation of businesses won’t be obsessed with hoarding wealth. They won’t be subject to the foolishness of environmental destruction. They won’t sell the planet and the resources theorof. What we will see is a seismic shift of culture and personal identity. We will no longer speak of consumers, other than as a reference to the old, passed away ways. The age of consumers needs to end. It needs to. We cannot consume our way out of the situation. We can’t consume our way out of climate chaos. We can’t consume our way to a future where the resources of the Earth are respected as part of a living ecosystem rather than parts of a profit and loss.
If the children continue on their trajectory, and if we listen to them, and act, and allow them to act, we will see in our near future a new age of creativity, restoration, and transformation. We will see change in the climates of finance, business, art, politics, medicine, transport and every other aspect of humanity.
We already have the technologies. What we need is the incentive, the pressure, for a shift in priorities. The children are teaching us. Full power to them. May they bring us all to our senses.