At the end of yesterday’s edition of Radio 4’s ‘Woman’s Hour’, Emma Barnett has her guests, John Humphries and Jon Snow, cornered like rats. There is indeed something terrier like about her interviewing method on this particular day. She, representing thousands of her listeners, no doubt, wants guilt to be admitted when it comes to the hot issue of climate change and COP26. It’s not that she’s asking for her guests to declare themselves personally guilty, although the listener could have been forgiven for thinking that that was precisely what she was doing, but she wants them to take the blame on behalf of their generation. There has to be blame somewhere.
Both her guests are magnanimous in taking responsibility on behalf of the ‘baby boomers’, that disparaging term which only just stops short of veiled insult, and who she ungraciously declares have ‘had their day’. They are given scant opportunity to talk rationally about blame, or even about the issue itself, and still less about how we could achieve some form of shared responsibility for meeting our COP26 goals across the generations that are alive today.
Greta Thunberg’s prophetic voice, unless it moves into one of positive and constructive hope, will very soon also have had its day, having served only to remind everyone that we are in danger of mass extinction and that it is everyone’s fault except hers and her generation’s. John Humphries, on ‘Woman’s Hour’ was quick to remind us that no generation is without fault in this issue and Thunberg’s is no exception.
Blame has the effect of eroding confidence and sapping energy. When a person feels blamed, they naturally move into defence mode. The more energy we spend on defending ourselves, the less there is available to think up positive ways of righting the wrongs that endanger us all and then to act on these positive decisions. So we now need prophets of hope. These will be level-headed, generous people of all ages who are in positions of influence and who are prepared to listen to science and apply pressure on governments, and who will hold those governments accountable not only for the decisions they take, but for their failure to control and curb the selfish interests of the fossil fuel industry. They will do this by providing viable alternatives, along with financial incentives, for the many people who have no choice but to heat their homes with oil or gas or a place to re-charge their electric cars, should they be fortunate enough to own one. Boris Johnson’s blustering bravado simply does not cut it.
We are fast reaching an impasse on how to move forward in regard to climate change. There needs to be a change of road plan and this will only begin to be possible if we agree to end the blame game. It is time for individuals and parties to work together. Some have put the present climate crisis on the same footing as war. If they are right, then a government of National Unity is surely called for, a cross-party solidarity able to move us forward into the realm of the possible, in terms of what we can do both collectively and individually right now, and begin to build on positive actions, along with a determination to defy the extinction of this uniquely precious planet. Let’s not waste another minute on blame.