Listen and act!

By Henning Kullak-Ublick, July 2019

Greta Thunberg posted a thought on 17 March. On Facebook. She referred to the report Mitigation of Climate Change in which the IPCC 2014 discussed the importance of nuclear energy in relation to a low-carbon energy supply and wrote: “Let’s leave that debate until we look at the full picture.”

“Personally,” she added later, she was against nuclear energy. This had become necessary because almost all the conservative press and several politicians had twisted her words into support for nuclear energy. Even after her clarification, Jan Fleischhauer, a columnist on the German news magazine Der Spiegel, followed it up with considerable cynicism when he asked under the heading “Climate religion – The first Book of Greta” what all her supporters would do now; and specifically what the Green politician Katrin Göring-Eckart would do who, he wrote, had declared Greta to be a prophet. This was nonsense. In a sermon she had merely made a comparison with the prophet Amos who had warned his contemporaries of the dreadful punishment God would inflict on them if they did not start leading a godly life.

Greta Thunberg has a message which is crystal clear: it is up to us, the adults, to find a solution to prevent a climate catastrophe which we have brought about through our decisions and actions. The consequences of climate change are visible today already, be it in the spread of desertification, Arctic warming, the increase in devastating hurricanes, periods of drought, flooding and much else. That Greta’s strike in front of the Swedish parliament has turned into the global “Fridays for Future” movement represents one thing above all: a challenge to us finally to take action to protect our children against the consequences of our failures so far.

The almost pleading appeals of many schools to the supervisory authorities to tell them whether they would be sanctioned if they did not punish the children for going to demonstrate on Fridays do have something extremely ridiculous about them in the face of the serious reason for these demonstrations. They are reminiscent of the words ascribed to Lenin, that in a revolution the Germans would first queue for a platform ticket before storming the station. Good that many Waldorf schools have found ways of enabling their pupils to participate!

As teachers, we should show solidarity with the children, take the demonstrations as practical civics lessons and use them as an occasion to investigate environmental issues and the actual meaning of the economic life, ask what we can do so that the quarter of humanity that no longer has access to clean drinking water gets it, and fast! It is not enough for us oldies also to hold up a few placards now: we have to organise the change. This is not about what Greta thinks about nuclear energy but whether we are listening at all to her and all the other children.

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