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Issues and trends shaping our environment, health and economy

29 Sep 2019

Making a sustainable future possible

Posted by Michael Keating

Like an avenging angel, Greta Thunberg has swept out of Sweden to accuse the world’s leaders of failing to save the planet

Greta Thunberg at the UN

from a climate disaster. The the 16-year-old schoolgirl turned climate activist regularly castigates political leaders. In a fiery speech at the United Nations on September 23, she said “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you.” What started as a lonely crusade on the steps of the Swedish parliament last year has grown into a global movement of young people leaving school to accuse politicians around the world of failing to save the planet and leaving them to clean up the mess. Thunberg has catalyzed and mobilized millions in a justifiable protest against political actions that are too little and too late. What comes next? Many politicians would like to move faster, but they are afraid to take the kind of actions needed. Scientists have said we need cut carbon emissions to net zero by 2050 just to hold global warming to 1.5 C more than normal. That means rapidly starting the phase-out of fossil fuels, transforming agriculture to cut methane emissions, and changing whole industries, such as cement production. There is huge pushback to these ideas from many, especially those in the fossil fuel business. For politicians to move faster, they need to feel the voters will support them. What Thunberg and her followers need to do now is to change their consumption patterns and to convince others to do the same. The move to vegetarian diets and a slowing demand for cars among many young people is a first step. It needs to grow into a consumer movement that is grounded in sustainable use of energy and resources to give the green light to politicians and business leaders that sustainability is the future.

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