Obama tells young people at COP26: "I want you to stay angry"
The former U.S. president urged the youth at the climate meeting to keep applying political pressure to make a change.
Yesterday, I wrote a newsletter titled: 'Where is the anger about the climate crisis?' You can find it here. Today, former U.S. President Obama gave a speech where anger about the climate crisis was the central theme; I recognized quite a few of my thoughts of yesterday's article in his speech.
He said: "I am the father of two daughters in their early 20s, so I have some sense of all the stuff that gets thrown at young people these days. It's not always easy being young today. And for most of your lives, if you're in that generation, you've been bombarded with warnings about what the future will look like if you don't address climate change."
“You are right to be frustrated”
"And meanwhile, you've grown up watching many of the adults who are in positions to do something about it either act like the problem doesn't exist or refuse to make the hard decisions necessary to address it. And that's a source of real anxiety and real anger at older people. And some of you, no doubt, wonder if you'll be able to be safe in the community where you've grown up, whether you'll have to raise your own kids in a world ravaged by extreme weather and climate migration and conflict. As one 16 year old said, "For us, the destruction of the planet is personal." And that's why my message to young people begins with acknowledging you are right to be frustrated. Folks in my generation have not done enough to deal with a potentially cataclysmic problem that you now stand in here."
"But I also want to share some advice my mother used to give me. If I was feeling anxious or angry or depressed or scared, she'd look at me and she'd say, "Don't sulk. Get busy. Get to work and change what needs to be changed." And luckily that's exactly what young people around the world are doing right now. Two years ago, a Swedish teenager named Greta Thunberg inspired millions of people to join the largest climate demonstrations in decades. A lot of people now know about Greta, but the world is full of Gretas. One of the things I love most about our work at the Obama Foundation is getting to meet young activists from all over the world taking up the baton on climate change."
“Channel that anger”
"So to all the young people out there, as well as those of you who consider yourselves young at heart, I want you to stay angry. I want you to stay frustrated, but channel that anger, harness that frustration, keep pushing harder and harder for more and more because that's what's required to meet this challenge. Gird yourself for a marathon, not a sprint, for solving a problem this big, this complex, and this important has never happened all at once."
Obama still inspires, and he reminds me of the charisma I would like to see of world leaders. He was also outspoken in his criticism. For example, he scrutinized those who would play politics to avoid acting on climate change, calling out Russia and China ("two of the world's largest emitters") in the same breath as Republican politicians back home. Obama then added: "For those listening back home in the U.S., let me say this: It doesn't matter if you're a Republican or a Democrat if your Florida house is flooded by rising seas, or your crops fail in the Dakotas, or your California house is burning down. Nature, physics, science, do not care about party affiliation," he said.
It is worth watching the entire speech; it starts at 16:30.
Are you angry too? And do you believe we can do better on this beautiful but fragile planet?
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A transcript of the speech: https://www.rev.com/blog/transcripts/barack-obama-cop26-climate-speech-transcript