BOOKS: THE KIDS ARE AL­RIGHT

India Today - - UPFRONT - —Sopan Joshi

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

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