It’s a bit disconcerting that youthful voice of change Barack Obama, the first Boomer president, is now 60. And even more disconcerting that age has brought not wisdom but childish petulance. “Former U.S. President Barack Obama returned to the international spotlight Monday in Glasgow, urging young people to pressure their leaders to do more to combat climate change. Agreeing with youth campaigners, Obama said ‘time is really running out.’ ‘You are right to be frustrated,’ he said. ‘Folks in my generation have not done enough to deal with a potentially cataclysmic problem that you now stand to inherit.’” How true. Maybe you should run for president and… oh dear. So just maybe humility at your own failure to lead or inspire adequately should impede your mellifluous flow of advice. Especially advice to be shapelessly angry, since the youthful wrath on display at Glasgow was among its most useless aspects.
Greta Thunberg seems to have given up any effort to present ideas or facts in favour of swearing like a sailor. And for Obama to take cheap shots at Donald Trump when his own former VP has replaced that bogeyman in the White House isn’t exactly deep thought. Especially since he also fulminated against Russia and China, while reserving much of his venom for Republicans in flagrant defiance of the admittedly tattered maxim that politics stops at the water’s edge, saying Biden is “constrained in large part by the fact that one of our two major parties has decided not only to sit on the sidelines but express active hostility toward climate science.”
Fortunately Obama has something better than science: ignorant rage. “Addressing the world’s youths directly, he said: ‘I want you to stay angry. I want you to stay frustrated. Channel that anger, harness that frustration, keep pushing harder and harder for more because that’s what required to meet this challenge,’ he said.”
More. We need more moreness. And more hopey changey angry moreness. After all, his own nomination as president was the moment the oceans began to cease to rise. Can it really have been 13 years ago? What are they thinking?
Well, PBS tells us “A majority of young people in the United States are optimistic that it’s still possible to prevent the worst long-term effects of climate change, according to a new poll among 13- to 29-year-olds from the PBS NewsHour and Generation Lab… Scientists can predict just how much warming is expected to increase over time, and know what will help keep the most dramatic global warming at bay, and yet uncertainty reigns: Will countries make ambitious-enough pledges to reach net-zero carbon emissions quickly enough? Will they match their words with actions, as youth activists protesting in Glasgow are demanding?”
Imagine how cross they will be when they discover scientists cannot do anything of the sort, and adults have been pandering to them disingenuously. Meanwhile a climate scientist professor of psychology says the protestors at Glasgow are commendably diverse. “I watched everybody file past – from international socialists to Scottish nationalists, healthcare workers to striking refuse workers, from indigenous activists at the very front to cycling enthusiasts at the very back.” But they are rigidly uniform in their thinking even if comprehensively varied in their identity politics: “they all recognise that we cannot solve the climate crisis through the same means that created it…. Sadly, those inside the conference rooms at Cop are focused on doing precisely that. Too often they are simply grafting superficial climate solutions on to the basic machinery of profit-seeking, resource-extraction and endless growth.”
Imagine how the youth of today, the middle-aged of tomorrow, will feel when they discover that trampling on stinking profit-seeking has been tried before and ended up bringing a boot down on a human face repeatedly. Especially once it’s them looking up at it.