This morning I watched social media in awe to follow the youngsters heading to Den Haag for the first Climate March here in the Netherlands. An abundant supply of striking and beautiful slogans on banners. The teenagers spoke with passion and conviction about the issues we are currently facing regarding climate disruption. Their message: we need to take action – right now.
The protest was headlining in roughly all large news outlets. With one clear recurring question from reporters to the youngsters: “but what do you actually do to diminish climate disruption yourself; since change obviously starts with you…”
And apparently, for some people it was very satisfying to conclude that some of these children were ‘not even vegetarian’. ‘Still went on holiday by plane’. ‘Drove a scooter or used a mobile phone’. And even these classics: ‘just wanted to take the day off’ and ‘came by bus’.
In my opinion, this is a classic example of framing a protest to make the issues, and the protesters, look smaller than they actually are. Which is harming the cause, either by accident or on purpose.
So here is my suggestion, for all the coming Climate Marchers, reframe – reframe – reframe. Restate the question. Now, it is not about what you are or are not already doing in your personal life – it is about a societal change that needs the big ones to pull up their socks pronto. And these protests should be taken seriously – regardless.
To halt climate disruption we need big and bold actions, and those big and bold actions primarily need to come from those holding public power (e.g. governments) and private power (e.g. multinational companies).
Because in the end, as noble as it sounds, one person going vegetarian is just one person not consuming meat. Of course the inspirational effects of this action can extend to others. But what really makes a difference, is when the industry starts to promote and produce more vegetarian ‘meat’, in combination with the government supporting and assisting this shift for all parties included. One person could place solar panels on her roof, or the entire production chain of a FMCG producer would shift to renewable energy sources. Now that’s the kind of impact we so badly need right now.
These youngsters are literally marching for what is Their future. So why are some demeaning that by asking these totally irrelevant questions? To ‘show the bad intentions’, ‘hypocrisy’ or ‘laziness’ of these children? Or is it just because us grown-ups are too afraid to tell it like it is?
Yes I applaud people taking personal action, but no, this is not the right measuring criterium. Right now, we need change on a larger than life scale – whew just our luck that we have many ginormous multinational companies and influential policy makers.
So again, youngsters, reframe. Restate the question. It is not about highlighting individual (in)action here – it is about a societal change that needs the big guys to pull up their socks. Until that time, please, continue to show you’ve pulled them up to your ears already.