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Technological Revolution: The Young, The Educated & The Rich

In an interview with Harvard Business Review’s Azeem Azhar, Carlotta Perez, author of Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital: The Dynamics of Bubbles and Golden Ages, said, “every time. Every technological revolution has changed the lifestyle [of the masses] but it doesn’t just change it in any direction, it changes it in the direction that has already been signalled by the young by the educated and by the rich”[1]. This means that although the nature of innovation cannot be truly pre-empted, you don’t know who the next big ingenious idea will come from, and how it would manifest etc., you can anticipate that the way that technology advances plays to the hand of those with imagination, those with education and those with the finances to make these things happen.

This has been demonstrated through industrial progressions toward implementing sustainable energy, as well as an increase in electric and or hybrid cars being designed. The correlation between this, and the awareness of climate change, and the varying methods being used by individuals, to encourage corporations to make changes to battle it.

The climate crisis has been formally acknowledged since 1992, where at the Earth Summit in Rio De Janeiro, international governments came to a consensus over the state of the planet, and agreed to the United Framework Convention on Climate Change. The primary purpose of this framework was "stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”[2].

With raised awareness of the implication of climate change in the form of heavy international news coverage on the Australian wildfires in 2020, and the increase of celebrities as well as small businesses and independent artists using their platforms to acquire donations to attempt to battle this problem, the findings of in their analysis of climate change awareness and eco-consciousness back in 2019 could not be more prevalent: “The firm unity of the world population on the topic of damage to common home planet earth is remarkable in the current times of division.”[3]

The Young:

Statistica UK found that 76% of their surveyed population of 18-24 year olds acknowledged concern about climate change, with 35% saying they were “very concerned”, and 41% saying they were somewhat concerned[4]. Equally, The University of Yale (USA) acknowledged in their own research that 60% of their surveyed people that were Millennials, or younger, “strongly or somewhat support climate activists”[5].

Greta Thunberg has declared in her speeches that “there is still time to change everything around”. What was once a lone protest, where she would sit outside the Swedish Parliamentary building every Friday, became a momentous campaign, known as Fridays for Future, inspiring walkouts worldwide to stress the importance of climate change. Her influence upon youth climate activism has opened the door for even primary-school aged children to understand that they are being ignored most of the time when climate change is mentioned. She was only sixteen during her original protests and showed the young that they could actually make a difference if they sought to.

Thunberg truly opened the door for the young to force the world to listen to them. With her platform ever-growing and her having won awards such as the International Children’s Peace Prize, as well as the Shorty Award for Activism in her short career as an activist thus far, she has forced the world to sit down and listen to the voices of the young. She is witty, stubborn and knows that the world’s perception of her is less important than the impact having a young climate activist speaking up about the state of the world. Liked, or loathed.

Other young climate activists have spoken up about fearing having children in the future on a dying planet, which was elevated in a recent episode of Stacey Dooley Sleeps Over (Season 2, Episode 3: Eco-warriors) where young activists, Savannah and Blue, confide in Stacey and older sister, Savannah explained, “there’s a kind of, there’s a fear that things will get much worse”[6], she elaborated, and said “[Blue] said you’re not having children because of climate change are you and I was like yeah, you’re not either are you, and she said yeah and it was something we’ve both already always known; that we were never going to have children, we always spoke about that and I think that we never, we never even admitted it to ourselves why.”[7]

Accessing the implications of the climate crisis has become significantly easier for the young, with the UK National Curriculum exposing both primary-school aged pupils, and secondary-school aged pupils to the nature of the crisis in geography and science lessons respectively. This academic channel for accessing the issues imposed upon humanity due to the crisis means that young people have the potential to be significantly more active in speaking up about the issues at hand. This allows young people to have internalised what they learned in education, and use this in the real world. A study by HelloFresh in 2020 found that becoming more environmentally conscious is most important to 18-24 year olds (38%)[8].

I saw this first hand back in September 2019, when I attended the global climate strike, which Thunberg had encouraged as part of the Fridays For Future campaign, marching with thousands of people in central London, and was moved to tears seeing young children stood outside the Houses of Parliament chanting in a beg for change. I knew why I was marching, and I saw many people my age in the crowds around me, desperate for the protest to inspire change, despite internalised cynicism toward whether things would change.

The Educated

Education is a term which can refer to many ideas: someone can be well-versed in business and know little about history, just as someone who has a degree in the arts could know little about mathematics. Education is a significant influence on social change from many stems, all connecting to conjoined roots, especially when it comes to looking at the state of the climate.

Many of the young are written off as not knowing what they are talking about when it comes to discussing heavy-handed issues such as politics and the climate crisis, with people falling to the wayside, unsure of how to carve their way through the voices that claim their contributions are not worthwhile because they may not have the qualifications to make something possible. Whether that be a matter of differences of study, or perhaps they have yet to study at university, or maybe as Blue Sandford has done, gone on long-term school-strike and refuses to return to the classroom until the UK Government implements legislation about the climate crisis that will inspire change. During her break from the classroom, she has partaken in HS2 protests across the United Kingdom.

During 17th May 2021 episode of Stacey Dooley Sleeps Over, the partriarch of the Sandford family, and father to Blue and Savannah explained to Stacey that it was “Because we can, [that] we should”.

Roc Sandford happens to be a Geography graduate of The University of Bristol, and elaborated; stating that due to him and his daughters having the privileged of being white, middle class men and women, they should engage in activism because not everyone is able to do so, without fearing severe consequences; there are greater risks involved for those who do not have the same privileges. He understood that his daughters were risking criminal records for civil disobedience participating in protests against the state of the climate crisis and encouraged them to do what they believed to be right.

Of course, it is not only those who studied Geography that have a stake in when it comes to the state of the world, with people who studied politics, business etc. also being able to share their own thoughts, feelings and expertise about the subject at hand, their voices being heard in the crowd due to the value of their academic perspective.

For example, business owner, author of The Agile Manifesto and graduate of Henley Business School[9], Anne Cantelo acknowledged the implications of London’s pollution due to commutes, and had suggested working remotely as a solution to reduce company overhead costs and to help larger corporations do their bit to reduce each office’s carbon footprint. The gravity of her declaration was certainly proved during the Coronavirus Pandemic, where there was an instantaneous reduction in emissions in the major cities that were hubs for the commuters. She had proposed what had once been a farcical idea, that had proven to be the way forward.

Then of course, there is the national treasure, Sir David Attenborough. Thunberg described Attenborough as someone “that we should all strive to be like”[10] and acknowledged his life experience putting him in high esteem when speaking up, saying "he's done so much in his life, he has so many stories to share."[11]

Since being struck by the reality of the climate crisis during 2004[12], he has made many nods to the implication of the issue on the environment he documents around him, with his documentary, David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet, described as a “witness statement”[13] exploring the impacts he has observed of climate change during his lifetime, and career. A poignant and emotional experience for viewers, it not only provided perspective on Attenborough’s own mortality, but also the weight of what he has learned during his career. Viewers were stricken by dread over the nature of the climate crisis and what could still be achievable.

His life experiences have certainly further educated Attenborough and the nature of him adding quips about the ever-present threat of climate change in his documentaries, certainly made audiences think. After all, Perez said, the educated help influence the technological revolutions to come. She did not say what form of education this can take on.

The Rich

Of course, when discussing the progress toward successful innovations to improve the state of the planet, especially with regards to cars and other vehicles, one cannot ever overlook the significant progress made by Elon Musk of Tesla, who recently declared that he would give $100 million USD to the winner of the Carbon Removal X Prize[14], a financial incentive for innovative scientific minds to try and remove excessive carbon from our atmosphere, whether it be in a form of regeneration, or bonding, or something else entirely. This incentive to get others to work together in a bid to make significant changes in technology for the sake of climate preservation etc. was certainly bordering the idea of a Dragons’ Den-like philanthropy, giving financial aid and investment to make significant change, whether it be in product development or something else entirely, such as, in this case, changing the state of affairs in regards to the climate crisis.

You would assume that people with fortunes as immense as Musk’s would be above the idea of helping others, content with the plush comfort of an income that increases at the same rate it could be burned. Instead, however, Musk’s actions toward climate change etc. demonstrate that he doesn’t view himself as above the rest of the population in an Ebenezer Scrooge manner. He understands that if the world is ablaze, everyone will burn up, saying this in his “Tesla Master Plan Part Deux”[15], as he called it back in 2016, predating the public activism of Thunberg: “The point of all this was, and remains, accelerating the advent of sustainable energy, so that we can imagine far into the future and life is still good. That's what 'sustainable' means. It's not some silly, hippy thing — it matters for everyone.”[16]

With fellow billionaire, Bill Gates praising the diligent efforts of Musk in an interview with CBS Evening News back in February 2021, Gates explained that "We need hundreds of Elon Musks and that's how we'll get this done”[17]; stressing that the efforts Musk has made previously have proven momentous, but, he is just one man, and would not be able to defeat the pressing threat of climate change without other billionaires and innovators trying their hands at being greener in their business technologies too.

Musk is shown to agree with Gates’, although not directly referencing it, saying in an interview with E&E News, "I think if you get a lot of smart people working on [reducing rising carbon emissions], there can be some really creative solutions."[18] You need more than Elon Musk to make the world change for the better, but, as Bill Gates said, “the Tesla's a strong product. It's forced all the car companies to look at, can they match what he's done there.”[19]

You need more than Greta Thunberg, Sir David Attenborough and Elon Musk to change the world, these three examples of how Perez’s idea manifests itself are not the only people with stakes in the game of trying to force governments to change their policies, trying to get big businesses to change their ways, and encourage even small changes among the masses such as recycling and using reusable products where possible. This is bigger than just a handful of people. They are simply paving the way for the innovators to come. As a cautiously optimistic person, I am filled with hope seeing these figureheads of strikingly different generations striving to reach a common goal and make sure our planet recovers from the horrific treatment it has been dealt by the ignorant.

The Agile Works, based in London, UK, was founded by Arvind Mishra in 2016. We are an up-and-coming training, recruitment and consultancy business with the goal of becoming a household name. We strive to provide you with the tools to make your company that can thrive, and not just survive.

[1] [2],interference%20with%20the%20climate%20system%22. [3] [4],very%20concerned%20about%20climate%20change. [5] [6] Stacey Dooley Sleeps Over (Season 2, Episode 3: Eco-warriors [7] Stacey Dooley Sleeps Over (Season 2, Episode 3: Eco-warriors [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14]'s%20the%20richest%20incentive%20prize%20in%20history.&text=The%20richest%20incentive%20prize%20in%20history%20is%20now%20officially%20up,on%20Thursday%20(April%2022). [15] [16] [17] [18],thaw%20or%20collapse%2C%20Musk%20noted. [19]

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