Last modified on Thu 25 Apr 2019
We asked readers to tell us how they feel about the climate movement in the UK
The last week has seen environmental activist Greta Thunberg meet with MPs in London, Extinction Rebellion disrupt cities and the BBC air David Attenborough’s rousing Climate Change: The Facts documentary. It feels like we’ve reached a pivotal moment in the climate movement. Readers tell us how it has affected them.
Extinction Rebellion, the School Strike for Climate and Greta Thunberg have changed my understanding of the climate issue by highlighting to me – in a way I didn’t realise before – the urgency of the problem facing us. I have been extremely concerned about the future of our planet in a way I haven’t felt before. While I once imagined having children in the future, I’ve come to realise that may not be possible anymore. I did not fully grasp how quickly we need to act to save the planet – I had a false sense that someone, politicians, scientists, billionaire philanthropists, would swoop in and sort it out before it is too late.
Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg have really highlighted that this is not the case. Politicians will not do anything until the public starts caring about these issues and voting in line with them – both in elections and with their pockets.
Mairi Jeffery, 24, London
‘For the first time, my friends and family are talking about the issue’
This movement has given me great hope. I have felt for a long time that it was almost impossible to talk about the climate emergency; the government has acted so indifferently and there has been such little focus in the media that it seemed difficult to believe we are rapidly approaching a crisis.
The protests give the issue a tangible urgency in a way that the scientific reports have struggled. For the first time, my friends and family are talking about the issue without me raising it. This movement has shown me that ordinary people can mobilise effectively and act when our government is failing us.
Anna, 31, London
‘The movement needs to find a way to talk to normal working-class people’
I’ve followed the whole climate movement, and I try as best I can to understand all aspects of climate change and how to stop, tax or regulate it. I really hope that things change, but I feel the movement needs to find a way to talk to the normal working-class people I work with. There’s a thousand people working in the same warehouse as me, and I haven’t heard more than one say anything about climate change, and if they have it’s been to make jokes about the people down in London.
I really support the people who went to make a huge show down there, to get the media to pay attention, but we need all classes of people to get this, and fast. I do believe that the vast majority will be behind the changes we need to make, but only if they know what we’re up against. They need to be mobilised, not scared.
Stephen, 46, Newcastle-under-Lyme
‘It has allowed me to express the fear I kept inside’
I have been campaigning for environmental issues and climate change for almost three years – since I was 12 years old. I have always felt isolated and actually, quite alone. If the movement has given me anything it’s solidarity and hope. It has also allowed me to really feel and express the fear I kept inside. It also made me want to shout louder and become more active. I have been striking from school and I feel empowered – no longer alone but with 1 million children around the world.
I feel quite terrified of the future. I think the world adults are presiding over now will be unimaginably different by the time I’m in my 30s. I also feel hope because there is such a surge in involvement and the brave demands are finally being listened to. I thank Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg, you have energised and inspired us to be brave and fearless.
Dara McAnulty, 15, naturalist, conservationist and activist, Northern Ireland
‘I’m worried XR has hijacked the issue of climate change to the detriment of any real progress’
I fully support the goal of raising the issue of climate change (and other pressing environmental issues) but Extinction Rebellion’s way is not the way.
There has been some attempt to show that it’s not just a middle-class indulgence but that has only been demonstrated to a limited effect. The alienation of the climate change issue by the campaign has excluded a huge proportion of the UK population, which is potentially very damaging. There’s a very real risk that the smug message the campaign gives out could have a similar effect on the UK as Brexit has.
I’m a firm Remainer and environmentalist, but I’m deeply worried that XR has hijacked the issue of climate change to the detriment of any real and proper progress, and we’ll all suffer as a result of that. Tribalism and band waggon-hopping is not an attractive social development.
Anonymous, environmental lawyer, UK
‘The movement is intensely irritating’
The movement has been intensely irritating, and the irritations have been self-defeating. I agree with the principle of free speech etc, however, that free speech should not come at the expense of someone else’s rights. So blocking bridges with plastic tents fails to support the reasonably sound motives of the majority of the participants. The protests went on far longer than necessary.
It has been damaging to any chance of addressing the fundamental issues. High profile people, like Sir David [Attenborough], ranting on, has consistently ducked the biggest issue: there are too many humans on this planet. I have only heard one pundit in the last five years ever mention population control. If the human population stops growing (or shrinks) the problems of pollution etc also reduce.
The repeated poor and often flawed arguments mean that I now find the environmental movement tedious.
David Helliwell, 60, retired engineer, Cambridge
Climate change activists play music as Extinction Rebellion blocks the road on Waterloo Bridge in London on 21 April. Photograph: Niklas Halle’n/AFP/Getty Images
‘I have felt fed up, depressed and unable to effect any change’
For years I have felt quite powerless about the issue of climate change. It has been self-evident for at least three decades, but the political and economic systems of the world are quite unwilling to acknowledge the issue. I have felt fed up, depressed and unable to effect any change to the system.
Suddenly with Greta Thunberg there has been a significant shift and young people have realised that the leaders are not doing enough to address the climate issue. Prior to Easter 2019 I was a bit anxious about Extinction Rebellion and was concerned it might be a cover for anarchists and far-left socialists. But this is different.
I do now believe that it will be possible to convince the political and economic leaders to make the changes required to prevent the crisis.
Andrew Mottram, 65, former priest, Herefordshire
‘The demonstrators do not represent me’
Throughout my formal education years, and then as an adult, I have always understood the need to protect our planet and its diversity, and have taken steps to do my bit. The recent demonstrations have not changed my views on climate change. The demonstrators do not represent me.
None of us are ever guaranteed a future. We have the choice to be forces for good or bad – to be selfish or sharing in all that we do. We can, therefore, help to shape a more positive future for everyone, but there will always be those who feel they deserve more at any level.
Anonymous, 58, beekeeper, UK
‘The future is less threatening than before’
My understanding of the science was sound but the means of expressing it in general conversation was helped enormously by the impact that the protests have demonstrated in TV news programmes.
The future is less threatening than it was before the movement was formed. There’s now a real chance that we will be able to face it with concrete proposals for realistic change to prevent catastrophe.
Allan Sharman, 75, Cockermouth, Cumbria
‘I will feel hopeful once I have done what I can to protect my future’
I am heavily involved in organising the Birmingham Youth Strike for Climate events which has made me aware of the power behind our voices and our actions.
Although I would personally not carry out as extreme actions as Extinction Rebellion, like causing £6,000 worth of damage to Shell headquarters, I have so much appreciation for what they are doing: bringing media attention to the issue and pressuring the government to take action.
The future will become more hopeful once I feel that as an individual I have done as much as I can to protect my future, and also that the government is actively doing as much as they can.
Georgina Nott, 15, Birmingham
‘I’m no longer alone’: readers on how the climate movement has affected them | The Guardian
Last modified on Thu 25 Apr 2019 We asked readers to tell us how they feel about the climate movement in the UK The last week has seen environmental activist Greta Thunberg meet with MPs in London, Extinction Rebellion disrupt cities and the BBC air David Attenborough’s rousing Climate Change: The Facts documentary. It feels… [Read More]