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In the run up to COP26 in Glasgow, a viral video showed a straight-out-of-Jurassic-Park Tyrannosaurus Rex lumbering towards the world’s most exalted podium in the United Nations’ General Assembly Hall. Having asked a startled human if he was OK and needed a moment, T. Rex proceeds to deliver a sobering speech to the assembled world leaders about how climate change is leading to another round of extinctions. (video link at end of this story).

“At least we had an asteroid to blame,” T. Rex says, exhorting us not to become our own asteroid and destroy ourselves. That short speech was truly an agenda setting one on the eve of COP26, even if had an altruistic, philosophical undertone. When COP26 ends in a few days, we’ll have a raft of agreements, assurances, grand plans based on theories and economic and accounting wizardry –but can we expect it to work? Not if we go by the results of past global jamborees.

We will return to the wise Mr. T. Rex a little later in this piece.

Scientists say we’re ominously close to the doomsday clock’s apocalyptic final dong. The rate at which species in our own neck of the woods here in New Zealand are disappearing while habitats are being destroyed by human activity at alarming rates lend credence to the growing belief that we are well into the sixth mass extinction.

As you read this, representatives from nearly 200 countries are attending the COP26 summit in Glasgow (31 October-12 November). Scientists, environmental activists, politicians and an entire generation of young people believe that the event will be an important and decisive opportunity for concrete efforts to achieve the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement – the most important of which is to limit anthropogenic global warming to 1.5 degrees by the turn of the century.

The signs however are far from encouraging, notwithstanding the great naturalist Sir David Attenborough’s diehard but charmingly infectious optimism both on our TV screens and at Glasgow. The rate at which humanity is spewing air pollutants, mainly greenhouse gases,  into the atmosphere, we are in line to reach that target as early as in the next decade or two, which will leave a shrunken, severely waterlogged world for our children and grandchildren.

Which is why children have turned out in such great numbers from all over the world at the Glasgow summit. These kids have been delivering soul-stirring speeches, impromptu and straight from the heart many times, imploring world leaders to do whatever it takes to rein in carbon emissions so that they can inherit a better world left so utterly degraded by the past couple of generations in pursuit of unbridled growth driven by little more than capitalist greed.

The T. Rex video is a metaphor in more ways than one: It’s like a real extinct dinosaur talking to a roomful of leaders asking them not to be dinosaurs. It’s time leaders gave up their dinosaur-like attitude and approach to dealing with climate change.

The climate crisis is a direct result of what happens when an incredibly weak and defenceless mammal evolves an exceedingly well-developed brain capable of great intelligence and an incredible capacity for conceptualising. Intelligence helps create tools and the gift of conceptualisation the ability to tell stories and create beliefs.

It is this combination of the two that has led to this weak, defenceless mammal gaining supremacy over its environment, destroying everything in its path in pursuit of a story of success, acquisition and consumption that it has created through the concept of capitalism, where the sole yardstick of so-called success is selfishly cornering resources for oneself at the expense of the greater good of others and of fast-depleting, finite natural resources.

Fortunately, the young people who have turned up at Glasgow are not turned on by the ostentatious consumption of the capitalism-fuelled boomer generation. They well know that they are dealing with a more dire and immediate situation that threatens their world, their wellbeing, their livelihood – their life itself. Assets, money, acquisitions are less important for them than creating a better world for themselves with the right fundamentals – like simply striving for a cleaner environment and an equitable distribution of resources.

There is enough in the world and in nature to fully support every human’s need but there is never enough to satisfy human greed. Knowing that and being aware of it at all times is a strong cornerstone to put in place policy frameworks and strategies toward building an equitable world. That would be a well worth trying bottom-up approach to sticking to the 1.5 degree limit.

If at all anyone made the most sense at COP26, it was T. Rex and the world’s kids.

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