Climate criminals — stealing the future

Members of Extinction Rebellion will be staging a protest action on the opening day of African Energy Week, with a specific focus on the CLIMATE CRIMINALS (Govt, Oil, Gas, Coal) who are stealing the future.

As a 24-year-old recent graduate, I am frequently asked about the future. Questions range from what I want to do with my life and what my career trajectory might look like, to whether I want to get married or have children. But the most truthful answer I can give to such well-meaning questions is that what I truly want for my future is the chance to grow old.

When I give this answer, people are quick to reassure me that this will happen. The dystopian overtones disturb others; how, in our technologically, medically advanced world, with our high average life span, could a young person be afraid that they may not see their seventies? Unfortunately, I have good reason to worry that my chance for a future hangs in the balance, the root of which is the environmental crisis.

Climate activists are frequently called fear-mongering alarmists for our insistence that the future of life on Earth is precarious. Yet the science constantly produced around climate change makes it clear over and over again that without significant change from the world’s greatest polluters and a rapid transition away from fossil fuels, we face a “‘ghastly future’ of mass extinction, unthinkable death tolls, and horrifying conflict”.

Our survival is under threat from multiple areas. Human health is greatly threatened by global warming, with increasing heat resulting in more deaths globally, because heat transforms treatable diseases into death sentences, exacerbates the health consequences of greenhouse gases, increases the likelihood of life-threatening wildfires, and even results in an increase in violence between humans.

Beyond heat, human settlements are threatened by catastrophic weather events of the kind we saw last year in the Durban floods, and in the past month in the Western Cape, both of which had high death tolls and left thousands destitute. These are not anomalous events. In fact, recent statistics from UNICEF shows that more than 40 million children have been displaced by weather disasters between 2016 and 2021. These children have had their futures materially threatened by climate change.

Moreover, amenities we take for granted, like water in our taps and food in our grocery stores, are likely to become luxuries as droughts, such as the ongoing drought in Nelson Mandela Bay, become commonplace, and heat, pollution, biodiversity loss, and unpredictable weather disrupt our food systems.

Without swift action from the most powerful and polluting, a future in which human life is threatened by disease, famine, drought, wildfires, and catastrophic weather is not just likely but probable. It is for all these reasons that I cannot simply expect to grow old.

It is fury that the fossil fuel industry is steadily robbing me of a possible future that drives me, and many other climate activists, to resist. When African Energy Week is rife with talks about fossil fuel extraction opportunities, with a few minor, greenwashing gestures towards renewable energy, what I see is an open threat to the future of life on Earth.

As Extinction Rebellion, we call on our political leaders and fossil fuel companies to stop resisting the transition to renewable energy. The burning of fossil fuels is destabilising the ecological systems that underpin life on earth. Act now. Delay means death. DON’T STEAL THE FUTURE!

Written by Isabelle Joubert. Read the full press release here.