My step-son, Ben, is a bright, intelligent, articulate 30-year-old. We discuss Russian literature and South Korean films but, we’ve never had a proper conversation about the issues around the climate emergency. It can be a tricky topic within families and there are all sorts of reasons for wanting to stay clear of it. I started by asking Ben how he would rate his concerns on a scale of 1 – 10: 1 being very worried and 10 being not a priority. He rated his thoughts as a 7, and used the word, ‘apathetic’, to sum up his views. Well, I did ask him to be honest. In his group of friends there was some discussion about climate change but it wasn’t the hot topic.
Ok, so what was his peer group talking about? Mainly, it seems, the lack of permanent jobs and the benefits that come with that. Job security is really difficult at the moment, he told me. Ben’s profession is in the IT industry and his working life seems to be constantly based on temporary contracts. He can’t afford a house, and he doesn’t have a car. He moved to New Zealand for a 2-year contract with Samsung; he has to be very flexible. Sustaining relationships, too, can be hard when you might have to move country for your next job. Ben even mentioned his lack of pension provision.
What was his opinion of the generation coming behind him? The Friday school strikes? Ben has just come back from working in Singapore and he said that there was no ‘culture’ of protest there. He thought that teenagers were easily led and if he thinks back to himself at that age, he had few opinions of his own. (I think his father and I would beg to differ on that one…).
Working in the IT business I asked Ben about the idea of ‘built-in obsolescence’. I only came across this phrase while taking part in Carbon Conversations, with PLANT. My understanding of it is the deliberate production of goods that will go out of date quickly so that the consumer has to buy an updated, newer model. Ben acknowledged that his mobile phone is an absolute essential in his life so, naturally, he wants the best and most efficient there is. He did say that he thought it was up to consumers to demand more if it was important to them but for him, having a top of the range phone, is important.
Mercifully, for us both perhaps, the table we were sitting round chatting was needed for dinner. Ben, is, of course happy for me to print his views and I am grateful to him for being so frank. Despite a degree and an international CV, Ben is currently jobless. What can I say? I have a home and a pension. These are thorny issues with no easy answers. Good luck with the discussions in your own house!