Politicians must heed pester-power on climate change and biodiversity

News that thousands of school-children are taking to British streets in protest about climate change on Friday, February 15 tugs at the heart strings.

Clearly, the desperate state of climate breakdown, and the failure of politicians to deal with it leaves them feeling they have no choice but to act, by staging the biggest UK co-ordinated youth protest since the tuition fees furore.

The UK day of action is part of a movement that started in August with a one-schoolgirl protest by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg outside Sweden’s parliament. Globally, up to 70,000 schoolchildren each week are taking part in towns and cities.  

Media coverage has been fuelled by ill-advised press rants by authorities claiming that students are simply taking a day off.

We can all see the growing signs of climate breakdown, and the latest UN report warns there are 12 years to avoid the worst impacts of global warming.

Yet will the UK government respond to our young?  Too young to vote, young people are typically ignored by politicians thinking only of the next election outcome and driven by their own short-term agenda.   Pester-power only goes so far.

Let us hope that some of those politicians care about animals.  This is the week we also saw headlines of wildlife annihilation, of a biodiversity crisis deeper than that of climate change, with the populations of all mammals, birds, reptiles and fish falling by 60 per cent, on average, in the last 50 years, according to scientist Brad Lister.

Insets are the cornerstone of all terrestrial ecosystems. Without them, we get what scientists call a “bottom-up trophic cascade”, with the knock-on effects of the insect collapse surging up through the food chain, wiping out higher animals. Without healthy ecosystems, we have no clean air and water.

This brings home the need to protect wild spaces and reduce the impact of industrial, chemical-based farming. Fighting climate change is also essential, particularly for tropical species of insects.  Individuals can help by eating less intensively farmed meat and dairy products, and by flying less frequently.  But the real power lies with our politicians.  


Kay Williamson