We talk about climate anxiety a lot these days: the rising feeling of helplessness in the face of the oncoming apocalypse. A paralysing sense of powerlessness, as we realise we ignored this crisis for far too long. As our news cycles slowly fill up with cyclones, floods, droughts and tornados, westerners have just clocked the unpaid bill for decades of excess.
For me, and I’m sure many others, the flashes of panic go beyond disposable coffee cups, and are a response to something much much bigger. Unfortunately there are no two ways about it - we need a fundamental social, economic and political change to avert this climate crisis. Capitalism has caused this ravaging of the earth. Our leaders choosing profit over people and planet has led us here. Where billions of people are oppressed and the earth is sucked dry in order for the 1% to maintain power, wealth and prestige.
In order to save our planet, we have to tackle this system. This system which has been maintained for centuries. This system which is controlled by the richest and most powerful people in the world. The system which was made by old white rich men, for old white rich men, and is ingrained in the functioning of everyday life. Changing it has always felt like a mammoth, nigh on impossible task. And that is what keeps me up at night.
It’s easy to feel completely hopeless.
And yet Jacinda Ardern, prime minister of New Zealand, has just shown us that it is not the only way. That our activism works, that our fear is legitimate, and that change on a political level is possible. After her compassionate response to the Christchurch shootings, she has just unveiled the first ever ‘wellbeing budget’. The New Zealand budget is now dedicated to peoples wellbeing, over competitive economic growth.
Putting happiness and health above economic growth, Ardern’s government has taken a deliberate step away from humanities relentless obsession with profit exhibited by leaders across the world.
New Zealand Finance Minister, Grant Robertson, says the budget is a response to seeing that ‘many New Zealanders are not benefitting from the growing economy in their daily lives’.
This is a different way of doing things, and it’s about time. It is a direct challenge to the establishment, to what it means to be a western government. To a system so obsessed with profit that it pumps carbon into the atmosphere, even as the planet burns around us.
I’m not deluded – I don’t think that Jacinda Ardern alone can save the planet. Nor do I give up my right to criticise many of her policies, she’s not perfect. But this move is revolutionary. She has acknowledged that the way we do things doesn’t work for everyday people, or the planet. Through this budget, she is challenging an economic system so old, and so deeply entrenched, that many say it is the only way a society can function.
So, Jacinda, we stan!!! You haven’t fixed it, but you have challenged it on the global stage. And this is the first step we need to encourage all western economies to do the same. Even if the implementation of this doesn’t end up in radical change, the denouncement of economic growth as a priority is revolutionary in itself.
In the current Brexitty, Trumpy, Bolsenaro-y political fog, it is easy to forget there are powerful womxn who are changing the rules everyday. Womxn who are taking on the establishment, and winning.
Look at Greta Thunberg, she’s 16 and she has mobilised one of the largest global justice movements ever seen in less than a year simply by speaking truth to power. You only have to watch Knock Down the House on Netflix to literally see Alexandria Ocasio Cortez defeat the system against all odds.
So. Damn. Empowering.
There is a lot to be anxious about, but this is not the end. This moment in time feels absolutely terrifying, but also insanely hopeful. Womxn like Jacinda, AOC and Greta are revolutionaries, and are showing us our voices mean something. We can and will change the system because we are only just getting started.