Saturday 19 October 2019

Editorial: 'The day our youth taught maturity to the adults'

Demonstrators taking part in a protest organised by Stop Climate Chaos Coalition in Dublin. Photo: Extinction Rebellion Ireland/PA Wire
Demonstrators taking part in a protest organised by Stop Climate Chaos Coalition in Dublin. Photo: Extinction Rebellion Ireland/PA Wire


The delightful tale for children of every age ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ was published in Denmark back in 1837. Like most of the work of the writer Hans Christian Andersen it borrowed from much older folk tales, and its core message still resonates today.

This story of pomposity and stupidity shown by an emperor and his sycophantic hangers-on came to mind yesterday as tens of thousands of Irish school pupils joined their counterparts across the globe to demonstrate against officialdom’s chronic inertia about tackling climate change.

One young girl’s poster pithily summed up the mood: “When all is said and done – more is said than done.” In Andersen’s deceptively simple but subtle tale, it took a young boy to debunk the humbug and say that the emperor’s suit, made from would-be invisible fabric and thread, did not exist. The emperor was, quite simply, naked.

It was a day when Ireland’s adults got a

lesson in maturity from their children. It was a day when every Irish person learned that we have our fingers in our ears on climate change. A day when the rising generation told us we must put our money where our mouths are.

Facing climate change will be hard and expensive, forcing us to alter the habits of a complacent and indifferent lifetime. But this bill has been clocked up by the current generation of adults and the generations immediately preceding them. It cannot be left to youngsters yet to start out on the road of life to face the catastrophic consequences.

Another poster starkly punned the message: “There is no ‘Planet B’.” Yet another put the message in Gaeilge: “Seas suas agus tóg gníomh” – meaning “Stand up and act”.

Politicians’ statements of support showed these youngsters packed a punch. They had turned out to march and rally in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick, Waterford, Drogheda, Navan, Dundalk, Belfast and many other towns.

The minister responsible for climate change since last autumn, Richard Bruton, pushed out a very timely statement. He said young people had led the way in highlighting the urgency of climate action.

“I have heard the voices of those protesting today. By being a powerful voice, they are paying testament to the damage that is being done to their inheritance,” Mr Bruton said.

These are impressive words. But for now they sit upon the sludge pile of other such well-meaning statements.

This one also goes far beyond Mr Bruton and his Government colleagues. It challenges all the politicians, of whatever hue, to stop appealing to various sectors in the climate change firing line, by telling what they want to hear.

Unions, farmers, business leaders, fishermen and everyone else have parts to play in this. Irish people, simply as members of the human race, must do what they can as quickly as they can.

Irish Independent

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