By Claire Leigh, Director of Child Rights and Governance, Save the Children UK, and Peter Glenday, Director of Programmes and Research, School of International Futures (SOIF)
In September 2019 Greta Thunberg made an emotional speech to world leaders at the UN, climaxing in the now-famous accusation: “How dare you? You have stolen my dreams and my childhood.” That line will rightly haunt us adults as we move through what is widely regarded as the make-or-break decade for both the climate crisis and the UN’s global development goals. Now, with the COVID-19 crisis upon us, there is even more reason to accept Thunberg’s charge of a woeful lack of foresight on the part of this generation of leaders.
Our apparent inability to make good decisions informed by possible futures lies at the heart of the intergenerational crisis of which Thunberg has become the voice. By displacing the costs of our current prosperity – the resource and ecological degradation, the worsening climate conditions – onto future generations, we are quite literally stealing from the future to give to the present. The result is a future which may be ‘unliveable’ for millions of children, as reported by the WHO and UNICEF.