Claude Lynch tries to persuade you to go to that protest you’ve already heard about.
Apathy is serious business. Vast parts of modern society are designed with the aim of pushing us to do things, such is the dire risk that we won’t actually bother. That’s why the Tube is littered with signage like “have you bought a ticket” , “don’t leave belongings between the doors”, and “please give up this seat for someone who needs it”. Human interaction in London has reached such an abysmal low that we need signs and even badges to remind us to give up seats for the less able and elderly.
While our ability to understand each other goes down the toilet, we’re losing our ability to understand the world around us too. We stop questioning why we endured ten years of austerity politics while financiers in the City got away with indefensible bonus payments year on year. We stop wondering if those ads we see on the Tube for faster GP appointments might be a symptom of creeping NHS privatisation. And fundamentally, we grow to believe that our society, one rooted in ideals of reason and logic, could ever possibly do any more to solve the problems of our time, be it inequality, mental health, or climate change. “There is a good service on all lines”.
Taking this situation for granted is total nonsense. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, and I’d hate to suggest that we’re all “living a lie”, or that this is some Twilight Zone-esque alternate reality where the Tories will never leave government in spite of Theresa May’s utterly cack dance technique. No, this is business as usual; we’ve been doing the bare minimum on issues like climate change for ages, while the targets get gradually more and more out of reach and our current way of life starts looking more and more unsustainable.
Of course, these are home truths that you’re already totally aware of: climate change is accelerating, everyone is pretending to care, Theresa May is an object of raw cringe. Life goes on. What this article is supposed to do is convince you that this week’s climate strike is an exception, where you can convert your pretend caring (i.e. clicking “interested” on social justice-y Facebook events) into real, visible action, and that you can do it in an environment (pun intended?) where the other people striking will be just as normal as you are.
This is not the first notable climate strike that’s been held in London. Last month, thousands of students of all ages took to the streets of Westminster to demand more serious policy commitments on questions of climate. An unassuming group of straightforward youths occupied Parliament Square, following it up with a sightseeing bus and then the entire length of Whitehall. These students were not born-and-bred activists, nor were they fringe ideological thugs claiming to represent an entire subsection of society. Instead, the event was loaded with banterous chat, a hilarious series of memes on placards, and some of the most woke toddlers I’ve ever seen. Quite a lot of the attendees didn’t even know what Marxism was (but they were eager to learn); for better or for worse, the strike was mostly free of the classic lairy activist stereotype.
I’ve already written at length about how a lot of UCL students can be put off making their voice heard because they do not want to be associated prima facie with some edgelords throwing eggs (egglords?). In all the conversations I’ve had about activism since, the people who seem reluctant always echo the same idea: they want to feel like they’re part of something bigger, but they don’t want to feel like they’re in bed with extremists. I think that the climate strike helps create exactly this feeling of togetherness, without risking the labelling (and it is just labelling) of a stereotypical “radical” dynamic. Personally, I don’t have a problem associating with Marxists, but if you do, that shouldn’t put you off attending; the organisation running the strike aren’t overtly pro- or anti- any ideology (unless you love eugenics or something). Go with your friends, come up with some fun placards, bring some banter, and tell the government you think we should be doing more to solve our planet’s existential crisis. For a moment, you might even forget your own.
The first Youth Strike 4 Climate was performed last August outside the Swedish parliament by a 16-year-old schoolgirl; now it is a global movement. It’s up to students like us, with thoughtfulness and consideration for the years that lie ahead, to make sure the movement holds its momentum. Thinking that climate change is a problem, sharing that belief with other people, or even writing a pithy article like this is no longer enough; we need to be out in the streets. It’s vocal manifestations of public opinion like the Climate Strike that will actually help bring proper change to the table. You can use your reusable cup as much as you like, and use UCL’s “recycling bins” as often as possible, but at the end of the day, 100 companies are responsible for 71 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. We need action on a grander scale. For once in your life – and I don’t say this lightly – banter might actually be the most effective opposition.