eceee Summer Study opens with an exciting blast of hope

(eceee news, 4 Jun 2019) An exciting blast of hope, urgency and idealism from the climate protests that shook Europe was felt at the eceee opening plenary yesterday evening.

eceee Summer Study plenary 3 June

Kyra Gantois, a 20-year-old leader of the Brussels student strikes told a hushed meeting how she became active after returning from a drought-hit Cape Town to find a Europe baking in heatwaves in 2018.

“That was the point that I thought ‘Enough is enough! I need to take action!” she said. Kyra watched as Greta Thunberg’s inspiring lone strike began to spread like wildfire. “Then, our revolution started!”

Kyra and other students put out a video call for action and the first Belgian school strike of 3,000 children grew to 15,000 the following Thursday and then 35,000 the Thursday after that. See the film here.

The former MEP Fiona Hall spelled out how important that was: “There is a need for speed,” she said. “Climate change is getting worse and we ned to take action faster and further than we thought. or we won’t be able to keep global warming down to 1.5C.”

Just at the moment where we need to be hitting the emergency stop button on our energy use, Europe’s power consumption has begun rising again.

That in turn is posing uncomfortable questions about over-consumption, the consequences of economic growth, the imponderables of human behaviour, and the limits of the tools that policy makers have available to them.

In a fresh and iconoclastic speech, Vivek Gilani, of Mumbai’s CBalance tried to capture the problem with an old saw which holds that “the masters tools will never dismantle the masters house”.

Instead, he called for a rethinking of whether sufficiency could be achieved in an individualised and hyper-competitive world, in which luxury consumption outweighs human need and, ultimately, survival.

“If advertising became banned or really expensive, if we stopped manufacturing desire, the problem [of over-consumption] would go away,” he said.

Such ideas are a long way from policy making tables. 

Kyra related the story of how, when she and other students met with Emmanuel Macron, he told them to go back to school so that they could find solutions to the climate crisis. 

“Why do we have to come up with solutions, when thousands of climate experts already know what to do, and our world leaders are not listening?” she asked.

The more important thing was to put pressure on politicians to act. 

Her message to politicians was clear: “We will keep speaking until it makes you uncomfortable. A mosquito is enough to keep you from sleep. As long as you stay and keep buzzing, every whistle will eventually sound like a hurricane.”

Arthur Neslen for eceee news service.