The grip of green fatigue

By Isabel Lai Durham University, UK BA (Hons) Philosophy, Politics & Economics with Study Abroad
By Isabel Lai Durham University, UK BA (Hons) Philosophy, Politics & Economics with Study Abroad |

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Our generation is becoming increasingly disillusioned with the issue of climate change. The topic is going nowhere, and the stalemate situation is undermining our passion to really get involved.

Climate change negotiations tend to achieve next to nothing, as individual nations are lacking political and economic incentives to share the burden accordingly.

Who will take the lead?

Last month, my university in Paris hosted a conference on climate leadership that featured a forum with three members of The Elders, a group set up by Nelson Mandela in 2007 to promote peace, justice and human rights worldwide.

Hina Jilani, a Pakistani human rights defender, called for social responsibility and a respect for different ways of life for everyone living on this planet. Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland, highlighted the injustice of climate change on a gender and inter-generational level, asking young people to engage and think big. Former US President Jimmy Carter, reminding us of his achievements while in office, championed human rights and told us not to fear big businesses as there are plenty of jobs to be obtained from green opportunities.

These were uplifting words of advice for young people. After all, we are young and full of energy, right? We should be the ones challenging the status quo and making the world a better place to live for ourselves and for future generations.

But things are easier said than done, especially when it comes to balancing interests of the economy and international diplomacy. Politicians need to move past using climate change only as an agenda to get elected. Governments need to be held accountable by a higher environmental regulatory body so they are forced into action. They need to show the public that they are actually cracking down on polluting industries and introducing alternative energy resources.

We need leadership that can effectively educate and convince the public of the acute dangers of climate change. Leadership that can lead by example. Combating climate change must follow certain principles such as peace and human rights as The Elders emphasised, but that's not the crux of the issue.

Because of the depressing trend in terms of how climate change has been handled in recent years, the environment has become a boring topic. High hopes have been shredded and green fatigue has set in. PR firms or governments really need to invest time and money into rebranding climate change as a "sexier" topic.

Carter understands this. He says that young people want to "live a life of adventure, excitement, unpredictability, challenge and gratification, and I can't think of any subject that is more applicable to these kinds of ambitions than the one we're discussing." That is precisely the kind of image we need to project when it comes to the environment. That is how we can get young people excited.

But excitement is useless without knowledge, and education is tricky, especially when you can't pin down the causes and consequences of climate change. However, it is the only way forward if we are going to lift our generation out of this dangerous state of green fatigue. We can't afford to be cynics and pessimists anymore; it is up to us to press for better environmental policies for the future.