No more coal, no more oil,
Keep the carbon in the soil!
This was one of many chants which I heard as I marched with an estimated 1,500 youngsters, students and senior persons through St Andrews on the day that the battalions of the vast worldwide army mobilised against the inertia by governments over action on climate change. I was proud to be there, among the bobbing pieces of cardboard with their slogans, a march that ended on the West Sands where linked hands created a symbolic 'line in the sand'.
A strategy for the young to have their demands met occurred to me as I watched the reports of international demonstrations on television that evening. In Britain, young people are granted the vote at 18, with the exception of Scotland, where 16 and 17-year-olds can vote in Scottish parliamentary elections. The young should demand that throughout the UK, the age be lowered to 16 and, with the support of many in the older generations, senior school pupils, university students and others may be able to defeat existing ineffectual political parties at the polling booths.
But, you point out that if we had governments (including international democratic ones) of the young, they would lack experience and expertise. That difficulty is overcome easily by selecting from the other parties politicians of experience and commitment to climate change. St Andrews and other universities are producing graduates in sustainable development, economics, geography, etc., with the up-to-date knowledge, degrees and insight that many politicians (and media pontificators) do not possess. How wonderful to see a 23-year-old female graduate standing up at the despatch box, taking Prime Minister's Questions.
But would a government of the young, the informed and the truthful, stop at putting in place necessary and painful measures to lessen the effects of climate change? For instance, with money tight, and with a new caring democracy, will the royal family, with its vast expenditure and hedonistic globetrotting by air, be retired? Should their subsidies go to refugees caught between the melting Himalayan glaciers pouring down the Brahmaputra and the storm surges sweeping into the Bay of Bengal, submerging their island homes, known as chars?
Something else occurred to me as I marched with the vocal committed students and schoolchildren through unseasonably hot St Andrews. Their slogans and their absence from lectures and lessons attested to their commitment to the climate cause. But will they be able to maintain their commendable idealism into the future while achieving some quality of life for themselves and their families, considering that because there is already damage to the environment of humans, plants and animals, with worse to come, there are bound to be limited difficult choices? Can they keep faith with their youthful enthusiastic manifesto of 'no more coal, no more oil'?