The French Revolution and the Climate Strike

“Let them eat cake” is the most entitled line ever spoken in human history. Jean Jacque Rousseau wrote this line in his autobiography, stating an out-of-touch princess said this during a famine. He was actually referring to a Spanish Princess, but the angry French peasants in the late 18th century decided it was their Queen Marie Antoinette who said this. The reason that the french public so easily believed anything negative about  Marie Antoinette was because they were growing tired of her and King Louis XVI’s lavish spending. The problem was greater than just the monarchy. All of the French aristocrats paid no taxes, yet had immense power and wealth, while the poor continued to get poorer. This lead to the French Revolution, which at its core is a story of the poor trying to equalize power. It was a failure in some ways, as it eventually replaced the monarchy with another authoritarian ruler, Napoleon. Still, the French Revolution stirred up ideas and showed that the people will try to fight back if the rich continue to act too entitled.

Climate denial is entitled, selfish, and an excuse to do nothing. 

Entitlement. Any revolution or protest is trying to overcome entitlement.   An estimated 4 million people stepped out in protest this past Friday, September 20th to stop the inaction on climate change. Its been called the “Youth Climate Strike”. In human history we are used to the struggles of poor and rich. What is the struggle here? Who is entitled here?  The struggle here is the people striking want to take aggressive and extreme action to preserve the earth’s resources. Overwhelmingly the people who want aggressive steps are the Youth. The Climate Strike was dominated by people who are 30 years and younger. The entitled group in this scenario are the older generations. Why were they missing from this strike?  A Gallup poll on global warming showed that 70% of 18 – 34 year olds listed global warming as a top concern. This was contrary to people who were 55 and older, who only listed global warming as a top concern at 56%. 

While the Climate Strike was about preserving the earth’s resources, it could easily be about power, who has it, who does not.  The leaders in our culture today are CEOs of companies and politicians who are overwhelmingly 55 and older. The decision makers in our society do not take climate change seriously enough. Why is this? Surely they see the random 60 degree winter days. The stronger, faster, and more frequent hurricanes. Even if you believe that humans do not cause climate change, you can still try to counter it rather than passively accepting the melting ice caps. Climate denial is entitled, selfish, and an excuse to do nothing. 

Greta Thurnberg, a Swedish 16 year old, is seen as one of the most important cultural leaders on climate change. 16! When comedian Trevor Noah asked her why she felt like the older generations did not take climate change seriously, she stated “ They feel like I won’t be alive anyway so screw it,”. Ouch. Can this be true? Is the simple fact that people who are 55 and older will not be alive anyway is why they are not taking climate change seriously? What about love for the next generations? It’s more than how older people are voting that’s the problem. They are also not embracing the cultural shifts that would help preserve our resources like vegartaism, minimalism, and reducing single-use plastic purchases 

Death. If you were raised Hindu like me, you learn that death does not absolve you from your sins. Hindus believe that you reincarnate. Each cycle of life and rebirth gives you a chance to atone for your past lives’ sins until you finally hit Nirvana. Nirvana is the highest state of enlightenment, where a person’s individual desires and suffering go away.  What if we created a situation in which we permanently cannot reach Nirvana because we did not leave a habitable earth to atone for our sins? What if we were left to live on an earth plagued by extreme weather conditions, flooding, wildfires, and hurricanes through every life and rebirth. Most likely we would not be in human form, maybe we would be amoebas. Amoebas eternally.

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