Davos 2019: What got youth talking?

What do 1,500 private jets and David Attenborough have in common? Davos.

1. The jets.

How did world leaders decide to travel to and from a forum to address the urgent challenges of climate change? By private jet. The sheer ignorance in this situation prompted unhopeful feelings from some young observers:

“The world’s f*cked and no-one's going to do anything about it until the last minute.” Mark, 25

Setting a record number, experts predicted that there were up to 1,500 individual private jets flying in and out of the event. It was also reported that Davos was gridlocked with limos for the week. The poignant irony of the situation was heavily criticised by media and young people the world over. This prompted the suggestion that CEO’s need to walk the walk when it comes to climate as well as talk the talk. Or, indeed, just walk.

2. Sir David Attenborough standing up for the planet.

The 92 year old naturalist and broadcaster opened Davos with a strongly-worded public warning for global leaders. Hitting home regrettable truths, Attenborough urged political and business leaders to avoid irreplaceable damage by renewing their push to tackle climate change: “The Holocene has ended. The Garden of Eden is no more. We have changed the world so much that scientists say we are in a new geological age: the Anthropocene, the age of humans,” he declared.

Our problematic economic model and its obsession with “growth” was also addressed by Attenborough, who made a point of acknowledging the changes that economics will be forced to make: “Growth is going to come to an end, either suddenly or in a controlled way,” he explained, citing the old joke that anyone who thinks you can have infinite growth in finite circumstances is “either a madman or an economist”.

3. Greta’s actions calling BS.

After rising to global fame at COP24, 16 year old Greta Thunberg made a 32 hour train journey from her home in Sweden (a stark contrast to the jet-setters) to tell the WEF attendees that our ‘house is on fire’. On Wednesday night she camped with climate scientists on the mountain slopes in temperatures as low as -18C.

Again, Thunberg channeled her anger with eloquence in the name of action - inspiring great talkability, news headlines, and encouraging students still taking part in the weekly strike for climate action. Speaking to a Davos panel, Thunberg fierily noted:

“Some people, some companies, some decision makers in particular have known exactly what priceless values they have been sacrificing to continue making unimaginable amounts of money. I think many of you here today belong to that group of people.”

Not only did Thunberg demolish the idea that we are all to blame for climate change, but she reinforced the point with some of the most guilty parties at her feet.

4. The tax historian (also calling BS).

Historian Rutger Bregman rose to viral fame for also calling out billionaires face to face during a WEF panel. Arguably the biggest star to come out of Davos this week (over 7 million people have viewed the ‘Now This’ video clip), he spoke critically to attendees on the subject of wealth inequality, noting how it is ‘devoured from the top’:

“This is my first time at Davos, and I find it quite a bewildering experience to be honest. I mean 1,500 private jets have flown in here to hear Sir David Attenborough speak about how we’re wrecking the planet. And I people talking the language of participation, justice, equality and transparency but then, I mean, almost no one raises the real issue of tax avoidance, right? And of the rich just not paying their fair share. It feels like I’m at a firefighters conference and no one’s allowed to speak about water.

Bergman’s words echo the efforts of rockstar congresswoman Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is turning heads by pushing for a 70% tax plan on the super wealthy. In order to prevent broad social backlash, industry have to “stop talking about philanthropy and start talking about taxes”. “That’s it,” he said.Taxes, taxes, taxes. All the rest is bullshit in my opinion.” This simple message made him the clear winner of the week in the eyes of youth:

“The Dutch historian takes it. Perfect! It’s as simple as that. Tax. Tax. Tax.” Fionn, 25.

5. No Trump.

While Jacenda Arden and Jair Bolsonaro made noteworthy appearances at WEF, Trump, Xi Jinping of China and Vladimir Putin were noticeably missing.