Readers’ Forum

Youth Can Make A Difference
Children are telling us they would like to walk freely outside, without masks and if it’s not too much to ask, under a blue sky. While elders will likely die of old age, “We are the generation that will continue living on this Earth […],” said Sofia Rahmah, 16, who said she had asthma and who marched with hundreds of others in Central Jakarta on Friday. For all adults whining over all sorts of issues and wars over power, resources and wealth, another scrawled statement on cardboard on display during the youth marches read, “You’ve had your future, now we want ours.”
The message from the youth in the Fridays for Future march was spread across cities around the world, including 12 cities in Indonesia, such as in Bengkulu and Denpasar in Bali apart from Jakarta. More children are showing conviction that they can make a difference and that few others will despite all their clout and resources. The inspiring figure for the present youth movement, Sweden’s Greta Thunberg told the United States Congress last week, “I know you’re trying, but just not hard enough.”
More than 4,600 events in 139 countries were planned for Sept. 20 to 27, including the United Nations Youth Climate Summit on Saturday in New York, the US, two days before the UN Climate Action Summit on Monday. Many youngsters showed up spontaneously at the rallies, skipping school.
Parents may insist they have not been toiling so hard to pay for tuitions for the sake of their offspring’s future, only to see students skipping classes for street rallies. But as other teenagers have expressed, there won’t be much of a future as long as they do not see meaningful measures to save the planet. Indeed, demands these days for rapid action are coming from protesters who are largely under 30, who will experience even hotter climates and unpredictable climate changes in barely another 10 years.
Government policy wouldn’t make sense to these youth; for instance, instead of promoting more incentives for cleaner, electric vehicles, last month, Indonesia’s government ruled for an 80 percent local content requirement for the production of electric motorcycles by 2026 and electric cars by 2030. Such policies, similarly seen in disincentives for the production of solar panels, worsen our protracted dependence on coal.
And for all the government’s explanations on how we are trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the world may be recalling the fires of 2015, which researchers claim were the cause of 100,000 premature deaths. Fires this year have led to nearly 5,000 hot spots, amid reports of land and forest fires and their impacts across Sumatra, Kalimantan, Singapore and Malaysia.
Worse, climate change deniers are also found in the country, even as Indonesians themselves, including peasants and fisherpeople, say they can no longer predict weather changes that are vital to their livelihood. Consistency in government policy would lend a more credible claim to leaders that they do indeed care for those who will inherit the Earth.

(Editorial, The Jakarta Post, September 23)