BOOKS: THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT
A“new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light,” wrote physicist Max Planck in his autobiography, “but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” It’s called Planck’s principle, after the Nobel laureate. And it captures the mood of Canadian journalist Geoff Dembicki’s recent book.
He argues that Millennials—the generation born in the ’80s and the ’90s—are gradually changing humankind’s response to climate change. Why? Because they have grown up with the climate debate, and because they are concerned about their future. Not just that; they are convinced that the dominant political-economic order is short-selling their long-term well-being. That simple. Splat.
It’s easy to laugh at such a premise, just that Dembicki doesn’t lack self-effacing humour. You can read the book just for the charming oddballs who form the spine of his story; he gives a rounded perspective of a handful of Millennials, whose life choices are driven by the need to redress climate change. Yes, there’s plenty of radical chic to mock there, if you must. But Dembicki’s oddballs are a lot much more than flower children-on-pot, or grist for Tom Wolfe’s mill. He gets up close and personal with radical activists who are causing changes in the economics and politics of our age. By attrition.
Is that enough to deal with climate change? Probably not, but Dembicki makes you doubt that premise. He illustrates not just noisy campaigns and protests, but also the silent changes taking place around us. He dips into a variety of opinion polls to show how young people are becoming averse to jobs in ‘dirty’ industry like oil and gas. He details changes in politics—the case of President Barack Obama rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline—and financial markets. “Investors born after 1982 or so seemed to have a completely different worldview than their financial elders,” he writes in the chapter titled ‘Why Wall Street is Changing’.
The book is located in Canada and the US, yet it manages to speak to a global readership; anxiety about climate change is growing everywhere. “No, we are not screwed,” Dembicki concludes. He has an epilogue titled ‘How to Not Screw Up the Climate’, in which he makes moral observations without moralising. He quotes climate campaigner Bill McKibben to say, “Changing the system, not perfecting our lives, is the point. ‘Hypocrisy’ is the price of admission in this battle.” You might not share Dembicki’s optimism or agree with his analyses. Even so, you’ll likely enjoy this book for how it explores human nature in the face of its greatest challenge.
ARE WE SCREWED? HOW A NEW GENERATION IS FIGHTING TO SURVIVE CLIMATE CHANGE By Geoff Dembicki Bloomsbury Price: `699