I asked my child how she feels about her future.
She said “Sad”.
She has been brought up aware of the issues facing humanity: inequality, population growth, climate change.
She wants to be at the Student Strike4Climate event in Newcastle on Friday.
I am sad that she is sad.
I will be there with her.
She is 11 years old.
These students don’t have the depth of knowledge that a climate scientist has built up through decades of research and analysis.
Nor have I.
But we will all be there because we have some knowledge, we have processed this in our minds, and we are conscious of the extent to which our political leaders seem not to feel as we do.
We feel the need to express our disappointment.
More than disappointment, it is frustration.
It is a lost respect for political process, for societal capacity for change.
The young see the older generation as immovable.
Hard-thinking young people see the adult world as soft-thinking: we adults are too set in our ways to face what must be done to ensure our children’s secure future.
I will be there on Friday because I know in my heart they are right.
The students who will front our news bulletins on Friday night will be expressing what cannot be denied: they have many decades of life ahead of them and they are fearful for their future.
As adults we have been too weak, too self-absorbed in our own comfortable lifestyle, to take a united and responsible stand. Now our children are doing that for us.
As adults we have been too weak, too self-absorbed in our own comfortable lifestyle, to take a united and responsible stand.
I suggest sadness could be generated in any young person were we elders to sit down with them and, point by point, explain in detail the problems they face in their future – largely problems we have only begun to face ourselves.
Climate change is paramount and we all appreciate its daunting complexity.
We understand it is the responsibility of both governments and individuals.
The students on Friday can speak with pride of their own individual contributions to the solution, but primarily they will be there to shame our governments, state and federal, into a quantum shift in action.
Yes, for decades I have striven to be part of that shift.
Many older participants at Friday’s events will have a similar story: an environmental ethic has grown within us and become our way of life, almost like a religion.
Where is this ethic profoundly expressed in major-party Australian politics today?
On climate change why politically is Australia a laggard, not a leader?
That is the message that will be elemental on Friday – this time coming potently from those who in most cases have yet to vote, those who with long lives ahead of them in this country have most to lose.
May our politicians and their advisors be listening.
What, we must ask ourselves, do we expect of our politicians?
The students’ demand is simple and three-fold: stop the Adani coal mine; no new coal or gas extraction; and 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030.
Right now it is to a large extent private enterprise and individual choices that are leading towards the fulfilment of these demands.
Our government has become a follower, not a leader.
To their credit, boardrooms are shifting focus much faster than governments.
In our society economics is the driver more than environmental ethics.
Ask yourself the prime reason you would consider installing photovoltaic panels on your roof: “I have done the sums” or “I’m doing it for the planet”?
But I remain sad as my daughter is sad.
Our ‘leading’ politicians are taking a back seat.
They do not have it in their hearts to be drivers.
Like Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, students around the world are taking it upon themselves to stride to the forefront.
As Thunberg stated to the World Economic Forum in Switzerland in January this year: “I am here to say, our house is on fire. [...] I want you to act as you would in a crisis.
"I want you to act as if our house is on fire.
"Because it is.”
Greta Thunberg is 16 years old.