Amongst the adults we discussed how we could ensure our children’s voices, and concerns, are heard and responded to appropriately. Specifically, how we could counter the naysayers who, as more and more children speak up, seem to be reverting to a stance of “children should be seen in school and not heard”. On the way back to the bus station, pondering this perverse response to children finding their voices, I was prompted to visit one of my favourite bookstores to search for some sage advice on how to constructively respond to what I now recognise as the bystander effect.
Described in the School of Life ‘How to be a leader’ book I purchased, this effect, also known as bystander apathy, goes some way to explaining why, despite the majority of society now accepting climate change as real and dangerous, too many people in affluent societies continue to live in ways that are causing emissions to rise, not fall. Experiments that led to the bystander effect explanation, showed that when faced with a harmful situation as a lone bystander 70 per cent of people would try and help. Facing the same situation in a crowd only 40 per cent of people step up to assist. Our tendency in a crisis is to wait and see what others do, hoping they will take the lead. Now we wait for our leaders to tell or show us what to do.
Well, as our children are now shouting from the streets, our national leaders have not been leading in ways fit for a climate changing world. And our children are calling it out because they are the ones who will feel the brunt of this inaction. Runaway climate change will kick in around 2030 if we don’t radically change the way we live now, not in five, 10 or 20 years. Now! It’s time to listen to our children, and make sure the world they inherit is every bit as good as, if not better than, the one we previous generations have enjoyed.
We need to stop being bystanders. There is so much that every one of us can do. Stop using plastics, stop buying food that only goes to waste. If you can afford it put solar on your roof or invest in renewable energy projects. If you can afford it, install batteries too; we need greater uptake of batteries to drive down prices. If you can afford it make your next car an electric car; again we need greater uptake to drive down prices.
If you can’t afford these things join a community energy group that is leading the transition to renewables and making it a just transition, fair pricing and benefit sharing feature strongly in the new distributed energy system. Join the Take2 Pledge or complete your emissions profile using an online tool and find out the myriad of things every one of us can lead on to make a real difference. Do something, because bystander apathy will not save the earth we love or our children’s future.