Greens, stop using kids to fight your battles
The spectacle of school children suing national governments over climate change is absurd.
I’ve met many 11-year-olds in my time. They tend to be preoccupied with school, friends and football. Not one was spending their free time preparing to sue their government over climate change. They worried about when they would be allowed their first mobile phone, not how to file a case at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). But maybe those days are over.
This week, an 11-year-old girl from Portugal will be missing school to appear before ECHR judges in Strasbourg. Mariana Duarte Agostinho and five other Portuguese young people have filed legal claims against 32 countries, including Britain, France and Germany. They argue that their rights to life, privacy, a family life and to be free from discrimination have been violated by the climate change that national governments have failed to prevent. Their childhoods, they claim, have been ruined.
Poor kids. Although, as four of the six are aged over 18, ‘kids’ hardly seems appropriate.
All of them claim to suffer from anxiety. Mariana has said of this week’s hearing: ‘I’m scared but I’m also very happy that we are hopefully close to accomplishing our goal.’ Three of the group have respiratory problems and they all, apparently, struggle to sleep and concentrate at school when it gets very hot.
Heat is surely a fact of life in Portugal – there to be enjoyed, not feared. Generations of southern Europeans have been accustomed to late nights and long siestas precisely because of the high temperatures. If today’s 11-year-olds are scared and anxious, that’s because they have imbibed adult fears, not because they’ve endured a hot summer.
Make no mistake: it’s adults who are the driving force here. Too many now make a habit of using children to ventriloquise their own concerns. Take the worldwide ‘School Strike for Climate’ movement, launched in 2018 by Greta Thunberg, herself the product of a very adult angst, and who was championed by grown-ups who really should have known better. These so-called strikes may have been hailed as a children’s initiative, but the children bunking off lessons to protest were given permission by their teachers and applauded by their parents. Through the children’s cute placards and angry words, one set of adults chastised another set of adults – those, that is, who think that getting to work and having a decent standard of living are more important than green virtue-signalling.
The Portuguese youngsters petitioning the ECHR are part of a growing trend of children anxious about climate change. A survey conducted this year shows that a third of British young people are scared, sad or pessimistic about climate change, with more than a quarter reporting that they feel ‘overwhelmed’. Campaigners suggest this anxiety is a legitimate response to real problems, but this is disingenuous. Climate change does not necessarily have to provoke anxiety. It could instead prompt a level-headed determination to find scientific and technical solutions to the problems we face.
If 11-year-olds are lying awake at night worrying about climate change, then adults should be ashamed of themselves. It is not the weather that is stopping kids from getting to sleep, but the teachers, parents, broadcasters and influencers who have filled their heads with doomsday scenarios about rising sea levels and out-of-control fires.
These same adults have led children to believe that their childhoods have been ‘ruined’ and their futures ‘stolen’. In reality, children growing up in Western countries today lead more privileged lives than their peers at any point in human existence. Compared with children in the past, or in other parts of the world today, they will be better fed and clothed. They will likely have travelled further and had greater access to knowledge and information. They stay in education for longer, can postpone entering the labour market and rarely have to worry about having a roof over their heads. All of these relatively recent improvements in children’s lives are the result of the economic development these baby greens have been taught to deplore.
If Mariana and her friends are lying awake worrying about climate change, responsible adults should point out to them that fewer people now die from extreme weather events than in the past; that for every death linked to heat, nine are linked to cold; and that, globally, wildfires are not on the increase. But adults aren’t doing this. Instead, they’re packing an 11-year-old off to appear before judges in Strasbourg.
There is another glaring problem with the Portuguese children’s crusade. In filing a legal case against 32 countries, the young people are bypassing national democracy and attempting to circumvent the rights of millions of adult voters. In looking to have life-altering climate-change policies implemented by international treaties, they are denying citizens a say in their own lives. Should the ECHR find in the children’s favour on Wednesday, then national governments will be penalised for determining for themselves what’s best for those they represent.
Of course, no one seriously thinks 11-year-old Mariana always dreamt of bringing an international legal case. Campaigners have first frightened her with climate alarmism and then scared her all over again by expecting her to speak, on their behalf, in front of 17 ECHR judges. It’s not climate change that’s making children anxious, but exploitative adults.
Joanna Williams is a spiked columnist and author of How Woke Won, which you can order here.
Picture by: Getty.
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