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COP26 – Marching for… What exactly? – Day 5

8 marraskuun, 2021

Friday was a big day. Fridays for Future organised a climate march, which pretty much took us the whole day. But there we went, Melty (the polar bear) costumes and all. For me (a Finnish introvert who likes to be alone or among a few good friends), big demonstrations like this, with thousands and thousands of people chanting, singing and shouting, are quite demanding. But what am I gonna do? Not play my part? Nah.

Preparing for the demonstration at a local (lovely) cafeteria called ”Grumpy Barista”.
Polar bears getting ready as the march is about to start.

Instead of agitating, screaming and shouting, I chose to observe. What are we all doing? Are we going to the same direction? Or are these events just shouting matches on who is the loudest to bring out their angle? One one hand, we had some labour union folks there, no doubt wanting a just transition and good union jobs also in the future we were all walking towards. Better wages mean more consumption. Then again, there were degrowthers and extinction rebellion folks, calling for a rapid decline of our energy use. This, of course, means less jobs, less wages, less education, less social security, less modern health care, less services – as it is precisely the high productivity gained through modern technology and energy use that enables all those nice things.

We shared goals with some labor unions. Nuclear workers are climate heroes, and need to be treated like as such (instead of the often terrible treatment they get today in many countries).
Everybody wanted something. We wanted clean nuclear power, now!

Then there were anti-capitalists, whose position seems to be blaming the way we have organised our economy on all (or most) of our problems, many of them demanding socialism (of the communist-type, not the social democratic type) instead. Yet there is little evidence that any socialism-projects have yielded much better results when balancing human welfare and the environmental impact of creating that welfare. So, while I do see that there are big faults and problems in how our economy is currently organised, I would hope for a bit more nuance and analysis when proposing alternatives. Wanting change for the sake of change, without much idea or evidence that the alternative would be any better, is perhaps not the greatest idea. And yeah, I know I sound like a boomer, but there you go. I used to have quite radical ideas myself. Today, I still have radical ideas, but I try to constantly challenge them and poke holes in them to find any weaknesses to make them more useful instead of just radical.

There were a bunch of us, including Ninja’s against climate change.

Sure, obviously a public demonstration is hardly the place to go look for this kind of nuanced analysis, but that is also a bit of the point of this article’s headline. What are we marching for? A bunch of polarising, internally conflicting ideals and ideologies? Fine, I’m ok with that, but it is also good to acknowledge the situation that many of the groups here, seemingly marching for a common goal, might not agree on many, if not most, of the details on how to get there.

Melty folllows science. So do I.

Our crew got a lot of good discussions and attention from other protesters and the media. Of course there was the angry man who turned aggressive towards some of us (why does it have to be the smallest female of our group, I do not know. We also had a 2+ metres tall medical doctor available for his outburst). Luckily the other Finn at the march, Tea Törmänen, was there to calm the man down and eventually even managing to shift his position on growth, nuclear and other stuff. At least a bit.

As proof of the media interest (and the power of Melty the polar bear), BBC published this ”protest in pictures”, featuring our two Meltys (the back of my head was also caught on camera, yay!)

After the march, which took the better part of the day, we went to a pub for some refreshments before the high-level cocktail event of the evening that we managed to get ourselves invited into. The very ”cream”, as we are called, lol. Cream or not, it was so nice to see many of the friends and colleagues I had been missing for years due to the plague, but I also got some mixed feelings from the evening. There were most of the heads of all the nuclear associations and institutes, one after the other giving (luckily short) speeches. It was very much welcome news that each of them said that nuclear is finally getting a seat at the table and that it needs to be ready to deliver and expand. Yes. For years I have been afraid that it will be the nuclear industry that will be the last one to awake, and that we need to drag it, kicking and screaming, to do its part. Everyone was also thanking the absolutely fabulous work that the young generation had done to get the amount of attention that they had.

The other side of this is that still, the industry and its trade associations and institutions could and should do much more to actually help with the work, the advocacy. And I know that it is sometimes hard or bureaucratic or something, and some of us prefer to NOT take any financial support from the industry anyway. But some are in a situation where they are doing tremendous amount of work and would very much like (and more importantly, would NEED) to get some compensation from it. These people don’t have mid/high level executive paychecks. Some of them barely scrape by, yet the industry sort of ”freerides” on their hard work, at least to a degree. And this observation is based on the discussions I had with some of the volunteers, not just my own thinking.

Without the work done by non-industry nuclear advocates and activists around the world, tirelessly making it more and more acceptable to support nuclear and bring up the environmental benefits of the technology (something that the nuclear utilities and and the industry as a whole has neglected to do in any serious fashion, except for the last couple years), I estimate it a very high chance that the nuclear industry would still be in the gutter, slowly suffocating, along with any hope of mitigating climate change on time.

So, yes, say thanks and show appreciation, but also, please actively look for ways to help these people, us, in our work. Some of us actually won’t mind taking some money for their work (and are not afraid to be called ”industry shills” for making a living). Some of us could use help and resources for example in the organising and planning of these kinds of events and big pushes – something that a nuclear company’s comm’s department might very well have expertise and knowhow to offer. At least I hope so!

It feels unreasonable that engineering students and junior engineers ”get to” fully plan and organise two-week long series of events in a highly demanding setting (Plague and strict security), to shepherd 100 or so volunteers and try to keep everything together. And they get to do it without any relevant training or compensation or help, and they need to do it on their own time, over weekends and evenings. And don’t get me wrong, they did absolutely amazing work! And I think their work here, at this COP, will reverberate for decades to come, and will end up potentially saving billions and billions of tons of CO2 emissions from being released. Yeah, it was that good. It was that much needed.

So, it might be a good idea for the companies and associations and institutes out there to think of ways in which they could help with all this the next time. Offer to help, offer assistance, ask if something is needed, have a budget for it just in case. We can always say ”no, thank you” if we think it is not appropriate or if we want to go about our advocacy on our own. But the lack of resources and support is also holding many of us back in a serious way. And we cannot hold back, but push forwards with all our strength and skill and will. For future generations and for all the life on our only planet.

I am writing this in the plane, on my way back home. It was a memorable week, and many of us are staying in Glasgow to face another one. Thank you for doing that, and I hope to meet you all again. This is Rauli, checking out from COP26, Glasgow.

From → COP26, In English

One Comment
  1. Supernaut permalink

    Thanks for the report, and thanks for what you did at COP26; it is appreciated.

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