PAGE 11: Global Warming’s Cold Reception

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By Rohan Menezes

Greta Thunberg, the Swedish 18 year old climate activist, who is globally famous for sparking worldwide strikes for climate action, was the subject of the documentary I Am Greta, which screened at the 51st International Film Festival of India to a theater under half full.

Climate change is the human-caused shift in global temperatures (primarily through fossil fuel emissions) that will inevitably result in famines, extreme weather events, and mass migration over the next few decades if left unchecked. Yet, as we see from the evidence at IFFI, the opportunity to learn more about it doesn’t generate much enthusiasm. 

There are some ready explanations for this: the COVID-19 crisis, and people not wanting to depress themselves. But over the past few days, I have seen a sexual abuse drama and a movie about a man dying from cancer with packed audiences. This leaves the obvious explanation; people aren’t interested in hearing about climate change.

To a 20-year-old like myself, it seems like the demographic that makes up most of IFFI audiences simply doesn’t care. As Thunberg says, older generations tend to place the world’s problems on our shoulders, saying we are their hope, but there is “simply not enough time to wait for us to grow up” and take the reins on issues like climate change. 

I am Greta’s numerous clips of worldwide protests clearly shows that the crowds of people, who protested for environmental action from elected representatives and the UN, leaned heavily young. It is the same with the My Mollem campaign in Goa. The movement, currently working to prevent three environmentally destructive projects in our tiny state’s largest protected area, is primarily youth-driven. 

Much the same is true of COVID-19 as well, as a quick walk around IFFI locations will tell you. The people most commonly following pandemic protocols like mask-wearing, aside from the especially vulnerable elderly, are people under the age of 35. Some younger people are also not taking precautions, but when compared to the more vulnerable middle-aged, among whom mask-wearers are not very prevalent at all, it is clear who cares more. 

I think young people tend to be the most informed, having grown up with unlimited information via the internet, so it is no surprise most activists have come from our demographic. But I am Greta also portrayed the frustration young activists face in today’s world. As Suyash Kamat, the 26-year-old filmmaker (and my colleague) said, showing Thunberg going from conference to conference to no avail “portrayed the futility” of presenting this cause to older people who willfully “ignore [it] despite it being such an immediate catastrophe.” 

Kamat pointed out it really “takes a toll” to be fighting that seemingly meaningless fight. Thunberg asks herself, “why do they even invite me?”. It’s a good question. The same people who ignore climate justice welcome climate activists at their events. Perhaps. they want to seem like they are doing something without actually doing anything. 

Climate change is all of our problems. Young people have been doing more than their fair share. Seven million came together to protest in 2019 when Thunberg called for climate action. But we still need older generations to stand up and give a damn, to get politicians to take action, hold wrongdoers accountable, and make sustainable choices. That’s true for the pandemic too. Until then, as Greta says, young people are left to keep doing the “same thing until they get it.” 

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