The kids are not ok

“School of Athens” painting by Raphael, 1511
“School of Athens” fresco by Raphael, 1511, Vatican. My old high school does not look anything like this. At all.
  • “Why are you here talking to us? We can’t do anything. Only politicians, only business leaders, can make the big changes you are talking about. Why aren’t you talking to them?”
  • “Why do you talk to us about optimism [Note: I had not, actually, but perhaps my presentation had been announced as such. Who knows.], about possible actions, when we all know that none of that will happen?”
  • “All these people in power have known about this problem for so long. Yet the IPCC comes out with report after report explaining we have to act within just a few years — and nothing happens, nothing changes. Why do you think this talk of yours to us can do anything?”

First: I should have listened before I spoke.

Second: They needed to know about power and change.

Third: what is betrayal made of?

  1. “Teenagers look up to adults (really!), as responsible people who give them guidance and protect them. They see politicians as the adults of the adults. [Note: I am completely blown away by this expression. Just — wow.] Seeing politicians who know what is going on but not acting, and grown-ups around them the same, is deeply upsetting to them.”
  2. “International agreements, the COP meetings, succeed each other as big shows with big fanfare, but then are empty of substance and change. Then leaders and media turn around and shift blame onto individuals, as though we were the only ones who could do anything.”
  3. “Everyone knows, and no one is acting as though it matters. No one is taking it seriously. Every day, on Instagram, we see people we know taking flights just for the weekend. Everyone knows and no one cares. It’s just open hypocrisy.”
  4. “The reports are getting more and more desperate, the statements more and more urgent. It’s always ‘3 years to save the planet’ but then nothing changes.”
  5. “There is a shift, because when the climate strike movement started, it was fighting collective climate denial. No one was talking about the climate crisis. Now the climate crisis is much more prominent, but since no one is acting, it seems there is a deliberate collective choice to condemn many human beings to death.”
  6. “So many brands are jumping on the bandwagon, coming out with super statements that are just so much greenwashing. Same for political statements: big public speeches, but then no action.”
  7. “We have seen that covid and Russia’s war on Ukraine can really cause changes overnight — but for climate, which is supposed to be a real crisis too, nothing is done.”
  8. “The system is stuck, bogged down. No one knows how to shift it. In fact, grown-ups identify with the system more than they do with the reality of the climate crisis.”

Fourth: a tear in time.

Epilogue: a good lesson.




Immigrant, Swiss-American-UK ecological economist at the University of Lausanne. Research focus on living well within planetary limits. Opinions my own.

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Julia Steinberger

Julia Steinberger

Immigrant, Swiss-American-UK ecological economist at the University of Lausanne. Research focus on living well within planetary limits. Opinions my own.

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