My latest book The Survival Game is a road movie (and already optioned for a real movie!) about a girl and a boy trying to get to safety in a world ravaged by climate change. The scenario of the book might seem futuristic – and certainly I push the envelope a bit. But not by much. In fact, my friend Tom Burke (who heads up the independent climate change think tank E3G) thinks the ‘terrifying’ world I depict could be with us in about 30 years. If we do nothing, that is. And nothing is pretty much what we are doing.
Terrific. So, we might as well all just lie down and die, right?
Together – we can change things. The Survival Game and the #ChooseLovetoSurvive campaign is my attempt to start a conversation about that. Especially with young people.
Why with young people especially?
Because, at the end of these next 30 critical years, today’s young people will be in their 40/50s. They’ll – you’ll – be in charge. And those of us who are in charge now will mostly be dead. So, it’s your future we’re talking about.
So why have we done either nothing or not enough to date?
Because climate change is a planetary problem and it’s difficult for us to breach our national interest silos. However, no one country can make itself climate secure acting alone. That’s because we’re all interconnected. Our rivers, the sea, the air we breathe, these things don’t recognise borders. We have to act together to make a difference. And persuade our politicians of this.
Why are young people going to be able to rise to the challenge in a way that the older generation has failed to do?
This is the big one. Because you can. You really can. You have a power that you’ve known and exercised all your life and which you’re really good at – the internet. The internet does NOT respect borders. The internet takes hashtags from your front room to any place in the world in an instant. There’s a whole book about this (New Power by Henry Timms and Jeremy Heimans, if you’re interested) but it basically goes like this: in contrast to ‘old power’, which they define as closed, inaccessible, held by a few and operating like a currency to be hoarded, new power is open, participatory, peer-driven and operates more like a current of water, particularly powerful when it surges. So, for old power, think Harvey Weinstein, and for new power think #MeToo. High School kids in America harnessed this power when they said enough-is-enough on school shootings and created #MarchforourLives. That coming together got them a meeting with the president and the first serious ever questioning of the (old power) National Rifle Association. That job isn’t done but it is how big change starts.
So what’s with this #ChooseLoveforSurvival hashtag?
Well – it’s a new power idea that arose from a meeting I had recently with the people at @HelpRefugees. If you want to know more about Help Refugees you can check here: https://helprefugees.org/ But the important thing is that this organisation (which has now helped over 722,500 people across 12 countries) began with a couple of friends deciding to drive to Calais with a van of blankets. It’s new power in action. Ordinary people like you and me acting to make a difference. One of the hashtags associated with HelpRefugees is #ChooseLove. And choose love is really the central message of The Survival Game. Or, as Mhairi puts it: ‘I know now that staying alive is not enough. Not the only thing that matters. It’s how you stay alive. What you do – or do not do – to stay alive.’ So, working together, we have come up with the hashtag #ChooseLovetoSurvive which we hope will be a banner under which we can mobilise for a brighter and more sustainable future. One where humanity matters.
Hang on – what does today’s refugee crisis have to do with tomorrow’s potential climate catastrophe?
Lots! Right now, about 65.6 million people have been forcibly displaced (about the population of the UK), most of them being hosted in developing countries. Yet the 200,000 or so getting as far as Europe have apparently given us a ‘migrant crisis’. When/if climate change kicks in for real, there will be millions more people on the move. Possibly hundreds of millions. So, if we’re not going to have Mhairi’s world of barbed wire borders and guns, we need to start doing some thinking. And also some acting. Right now.
So, what can I do?
Start asking questions and coming up with ideas. And using your power.
You might go local and practical:
- Ask your parents what they are doing to help preserve your future. Hashtag us the answers!
- Ask your Headteacher what she/he is doing to preserve your future. Hashtag the answers! And if you get a result – your school stops selling single use plastic bottles in the canteen eg – give your school some #ChooseLoveforSurvival praise.
- Make your own suggestions – what are you doing to preserve your own future that the rest of us could be doing?
Or you might major on empathy and/or the wider picture:
- Watch for language which demeans refugees or suggests they are ‘swarming’ into our country to overwhelm us and our way of life. Call people out – or hashtag some words of welcome or kindness. Remember one day that refugee could be you.
- Or question the narrative itself, the one which says we are having a ‘migrant crisis’ Are we? Or are we actually having a crisis of poverty/inequality/persecution/war and climate stress?
- Or perhaps you are a refugee yourself, or your parents were refugees. What can you tell us?
Remember –if we all continue to do nothing, we could get Mhairi’s world. At the moment, we still have a choice. What will you choose – to close the borders or open your heart?