I’m a member of Generation Z, the people born between 1995 and 2010. It’s very difficult to describe us, either as a generation or in terms of the times that shaped us, because we don’t have enough distance from them yet – they’re still going on. But one thing is certain: they’re stormy times. The world we’re growing up in is disturbing. Our youth passed by in the shadow of 9/11 and its consequences, meaning the broadly-understood American war on terror, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Immediately afterwards came the 2008 economic crisis, and as teenagers we encountered the migration crisis.
I’m not writing all of this to complain; I only want to show that the reality we’re living in is completely different from that of our parents. It turns out that there is no way the world can be divided into the good guys from the West and the bad guys from the East, because each side definitely has something on their conscience. And recently we’ve come to realize that the big corporations and banks don’t really have our best interests at heart. Politicians are more concerned with their power games, rather than carrying out the will of the people. In a word, the world we were brought up in made us the first truly postmodern generation. One of the most important attributes of postmodernism is the loss of faith in progress, in the idea that the world is getting better year by year. And that seems to be the main reason why we’re able to get so engaged in the climate fight. Because, after all, anthropogenic changes in the Earth’s climate are showing precisely the opposite tendency: it’s getting worse year by year, truly worse.
I’m an activist in Youth Climate Strike, a movement that operates around the world under various names. It’s one of the largest and most global movements in human history. It’s worth asking why we’re the ones who have managed to unite, ignoring the divisions of country, continent and often even political differences. Because here we need to add that both in Warsaw and in many other cities in Poland, the strike collectives are made up of people with extremely divergent political views. The answer doesn’t seem simple.
First of all, there has never been an issue that truly affected everyone so much, because although it may be obvious, the consequences of a warming climate are drastic. It’s not warmer summers and lighter winters. Well, it is warmer summers and lighter winters, it’s just that this doesn’t mean it’s going to be ever more pleasant. Instead, it means floods caused by the melting of glaciers, a crop fertility crisis and constant fires – and these are just the initial consequences, because I haven’t even brought up the subject of the migrations caused by these changes, or potential wars over water. I don’t want to get distracted by them here, as plenty of good books have been written about climate change that describe this subject better than I ever could. It just seems to me that being aware of these changes, it’s hard not to unite. Because it’s not a question that’s in any way political, though sometimes people try to present it that way.
And second, we’re the first generation that’s truly prepared to make sacrifices for the climate. The fight to stop global warming isn’t pleasant, because, of course, it’s nicer to go on vacation by plane than to take the train; it’s nicer to eat a pork chop than to not eat one, and it’s nicer to go somewhere by car than by bike or bus. It’s hard for our parents to give this up – for them, it’s a dream that they worked for all their lives, a sign of success that they always wanted to achieve. For us, it’s excess; an unneeded luxury, which we can discard. Another reason we’re able to give up a lot is because these changes will truly affect us. We and our children will have to live in bunkers protecting us from constant fires, we will have to flee from cities flooded by the seas. We don’t want that. We want to have the right to a normal life, and in the name of that right we’re uniting today. And that’s why in us, the young, is the energy for change.
Translated by Nathaniel Espino