Greta Thunberg has used this line, “Our house is on fire,” numerous times to speak about climate change. In the last few weeks, as England wavered over its policies, increasing lockdown tiers like a screw being tightened with excruciating hesitation, I have been trying to educate my daughters and myself about climate change and what we needed to do. Since they are the ones to inherit the earth and all the environmental chaos our consumption and lifestyles have created, the least we can do, I have understood much too belatedly, is to educate them and ourselves in the science of global warming and how we can take positive action.
And then yesterday, as we watched from England, the Capitol building in Washington D.C being overrun by mobs, windows breaking, smoke in the air, shots fired, I felt along with Americans and non-Americans alike, a disbelief. Disbelief at the tweets of Trump, of Ivanka who called the mob “American patriots.” Disbelief at the center of what is supposed to the world’s oldest continuous democracy being taken over by white men with guns. Where were the police? How many black lives were taken this year by police violence, how many police stood on guard to protect the Lincoln memorial during Black Matters Protest this last year and so few to protect both houses of the Congress as they convened to certify Biden’s win? But then I realized that my disbelief itself was a part of the many lies we have been telling ourselves, in the way ofour global neglect to take urgent action against climate change.
In the four years since Trump came into power, we have witnessed an increase in racism, hate crimes, and domestic terrorism. We have witnessed, reported, excused, but we knew what we were witnessing – politicians concerned with their own seats and power, to the extent that they will side with a lie rather than stand with obvious truths. Lies have a way of knocking at our doors. In the very ways we are burning our planet down, the domestic in-grown terrorists have broken down the barriers to the Capitol.
Yesterday was a sad day for America and democracy, but it was not a surprise, not a sudden apocalypse that arrived at the doors of the building with guns. We knew this day was coming. We preferred to ignore, we preferred to “hope.” Hope will not save American democracy, in the same way that it will not save our planet. In the words of Greta, “Adults keep saying: ‘We owe it to the young people to give them hope.’ But I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.”