In the spring before lockdown I was on a train with my then 15 year old daughter and friend, on the way to one of the Youth Climate Strike marches in London.
I was delighted that Chloé and Lily didn’t mind me travelling with them. I was meeting up with some of my own friends on the march, veteran activists, like me, tramping out in support of our brilliant young people. As my parents had tramped and my grandparents before that. We chatted, Chloé, Lily and I as they finished colouring their banners.
I was so proud to see them stand up like this to fight for their future, full of such sparkling energy and hope. Yet inside my heart was breaking - you should not be having to do this.
When I had marched at that age, for the same things, I had the hope there would be change in my lifetime. Chloé and Lily carried the same hope.
“It could be a long fight,” I heard myself saying, hating the thought of those disappointed expectations. But how much longer can we say that?
It is simply not OK to consider a world where in 30 or 40 years’ time Chloé and Lily are marching with their daughters, for a properly protected planet, for a world that works for everyone.
We have to solve this for, and in, this generation - or children won’t be marching at all.
Education is the foundation of any solution.
As the train rolled, my thoughts rolled with it. Back over the years that made me rage still at the fog of half-truths, one-sided narratives, the desensitising, imagination-killing pounding that produces humans ‘educated’ to maintain this destructive economic system.
I was meeting friends who I’d marched with against the war in Iraq, we’d been dragged off London’s pavements and thrown into her courts as we protested against Apartheid, been very young and very muddy teenagers as we help surround the base at Greenham Common. I saw my parents- my father, a young, black Guyanese man who looked and carried himself like a king, walking with my flame haired, blue eyed, white Welsh mum in the civil rights era, their very relationship a challenge to the streets where they lived. They taught us dignity in the face of constant degradation, that tempers itself finally into a dogged and unrelenting resistance. My grandfather, a boy solider in WW1, returning from that carnage to fight for basic rights for miners and all working people. Walking as a child in Georgetown, Guyana looking up at a statue of a terrifying warrior, “Who’s that, Daddy?” Runner Kofi, who led an uprising of more than 2,500 slaves, from whom I am descended, during the brutal colonisation, refusing to be taken alive.
Yes, a long fight, but one that must have an end.
The stories churned in my mind by the wheels of the train, are stories of people who were compelled to seek alternative information, to seek different ways to make sense of the world they lived in, to imagine a different world possible in order to have any sense of self-worth. To form a world view where everyone has value, has a respected place on this Earth along with all her creatures. Enough time has gone by in this fight to show us how a world view that goes contrary to this plays out – it has brought us to the edge of extinction.
That Einstein quote again:
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking that created them.”
I can count over 250 years of my family in this struggle, but it is far older than that. The same problems arise because we educate to meet the demand of a system that is fuelling our demise; domination of one over another, divide and rule, extract to extinction.
It is time to compost this dark age thinking and grow a different kind of education. I am not saying this, Earth is saying this. Our young people can hear it, when older ears have grown deaf and inured. Earth is speaking.
This will not be a long fight any more, it is almost over. If we cannot resolve it, Earth will.
My four top tips for rebooting the future:
- Give young people what they are asking for – the chance to create a different relationship with Earth.
- Give them an education that builds this world view in all of us.
- Give them the skills so they know how to regenerate and transform.
- Redesign education for a world with a future.
Proud as I am of Chloé, Lily and all of this rising generation, I don’t want them to ride the train I rode that day.
All change! This train terminates here.