Why old age should no longer be an excuse for ignorance

“He’s just old and from a different generation, he doesn’t know any better.”

“She’s so old-fashioned but she’s not racist.”

“He doesn’t mean any harm, he’s just not used to these things.”

I’m pretty sure there’s not many people that could say they haven’t heard these phrases uttered before. Whether it be about the Dad who makes a judgemental comment whilst watching the news, or the Grandma who stereotypes someone she see’s in the shops, or the boss who doesn’t hire someone because of his preconceptions.

It’s something we all experience on a day-to-day basis, and I’m sure many of us have felt the need to defend or make an excuse for someone we know before. But actually,  it’s really not acceptable any longer for us to use old age as an excuse for ignorance.

The older generation grew up in a very different time to that which we live in today- much less ethnic and cultural diversity, less travel and knowledge of foreign countries, no internet or social media connections around the world and for many people a fear of those who were different from themselves. Throughout the last 50 or so years there has been a huge increase in the levels of diversity we now see in our own communities and ethnic diversity is the norm for our generation.

For an older generation, this has been a drastic change and many still hold views of bygone times- that immigrants coming to our country are “taking our jobs” and putting a strain on our services. They may be fearful of particular groups, they might judge people before getting to know them, they could avoid particular places where they don’t feel comfortable. Now some people will say that these things are harmless and that it doesn’t really affect anyone.

 

I disagree.

 

We have a responsibility to not make excuses for people who want to marginalise particular groups within society, and if we want to see a better and more cohesive and less divided country then we need to use our voices to educate those who see things differently. The older generation have a say when voting, deciding policies and pressuring for changes to be made and so if their opinions are never challenged they will continue to vote for things which go against creating a respectful and integrated society.  If your Dad holds an ignorant viewpoint then you can guarantee at least a few of our MPs of a similar age and background will too. This means that policies will likely reflect this and we will continue to go down a path of creating a country which rejects and fears differences.

 

Next time your Grandad makes an ignorant comment, why not ask him why he is happy to utilise the services of the NHS and have immigrants work tirelessly to provide him with the best healthcare but then when he gets home he’ll make derogatory comments about Muslims?

Next time your boss mocks the clothing or appearance of a West-African person, question her as to why she will then, when she is desperate for staff, ring that persons CV and shower them with praise and compliments?

There is a huge level of hypocrisy taking place and we have an opportunity to educate those who do not have the same experiences and understandings as us. We need to start doing that with the people who are closest to us and who we can share personal experiences with and are most likely to influence.

So please, use your voice and no longer allow old age to be used as an excuse for ignorance. 

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No to racism, no to Trump; my first protest

On Monday 30th January 2017, a series of protests were organised across the United Kingdom to stand against President Donald Trump and his ban of immigrants from 7 predominantly Muslim countries, as well as all refugees fleeing to the United States.

The executive orders put in place by President Trump are barbaric, inhumane and appalling. So, we took a stand.

I attended the protest organised in Plymouth city centre with some friends. This was my first ever protest, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was nervous, but I felt so strongly that this was a movement that I couldn’t ignore and that I wanted to be a part of.

It was cold, it was dark, it was raining…but when we arrived there was such a collective feeling of warmth and togetherness that those things seemed completely inconsequential.

People were gathered with their signs and placards, the creativity of which displayed how much time and thought had been put into the cause, and how deep the passions and beliefs ran in people’s minds. People were cheering, chanting, clapping, shouting; there was a collective noise of hope and strength ringing out through the crowd. 

What struck me most was the incredible range and diversity of people gathered there, and it was beautiful to witness. All ages, genders, races, ethnicity, religions, cultures & personalities had come out to raise their voices, to stand in solidarity and to show support. 

There was the baby with a sign displayed on his buggy saying “This is my first protest, and it won’t be my last”.
The girl who spent all day re-writing song lyrics so cleverly with an anti-trump message.
The parents with their young children holding hand-written signs with messages of peace and love.
The young girl who spoke so eloquently on the megaphone to the entire crowd about accepting people for who they are.
The gorgeous Saudi Arabian girl challenging the views of the bigoted man opposing the protest.
My American lecturer who had made signs in between her busy day of lectures and held them up proudly.
The man who told the story of his immigrant parents who made a better life for themselves and their children.

In the lead up to the protests across the country today, one of the most common trains of thought I read was “What’s the point?” “What do you think you’ll achieve from this?” “It’s not even our country, why do you care?”

The point of today; it’s about solidarity. It’s about taking a stand. It’s about using the privilege of having a voice to speak for the voiceless . It’s about showing the people being victimised and discriminated against that they are not alone in their fight, that we are on their side and we will stand with them and for them.

I would encourage everyone to use their voice in every way they can. Post about it. Tweet about it. Spread the word. Sign petitions. Educate yourself. Write about it. Protest. Join groups. Talk to people. Be a part of a movement.
If you feel strongly about a cause, then speak up. You might think one voice is not going to make a difference, but when voices join together, they can change the world.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”
-Martin Luther King

Why should I care about the environment?

Environmental science has never been something that is well communicated to the general public. Science in general seems to be perceived by the majority of people as “boring”…and environmental science in particular is brushed aside as being rubbish or not relevant, spread by “tree-huggers” and “hippies”.

After recent events (in particular Brexit and Trump’s election victory), it has occurred to me that people do not seem to care about the environment. Of course they would never admit that if you asked them- but in reality they see it as someone else’s problem for another day, something not particularly interesting and not worth dedicating time to. Some people think it’s too late- that we’ve gone past the tipping point, and that it’s not worth doing anything, we may as well just be “business as usual.”

What people don’t seem to understand is that the understanding, monitoring and preservation of our planet’s natural environment is the biggest issue facing us today. It simply is, and it is not too late to change our ways and to preserve our planet and it’s resources for the future.

You might not care much about the plight of the bees, or about some parts of a rainforest being cut down, or a particular fish population being decimated, or a coral reef being bleached beyond return.
However, if you care about people, and about the human race, then you should care about the environment.

The island nation of Kiribati, with a population of 115,000 people, is predicted to be completely submerged within the next 50 years (Kiribati Govt.). Gone. Wiped out. That’s 115,000 people that need to relocate, move away from where they grew up, raised their families, where their history, culture, heritage, businesses and livelihoods are. Their islands will be gone. No trace left of them except what is hidden under the sea. How is that acceptable?

Water conflict in the Middle East and North Africa is resulting in violence and civil wars. People are having to flee and migrate en masse to areas where there is safe, clean, accessible drinking water just so they can survive. People are risking their lives to make treacherous journeys to escape to safer areas. This causes huge unrest, and puts immense pressure on other areas to cope with the influx of migrants. How can we let this happen?People are dying in the fight over water, and 783 million people currently do not have access to clean drinking water (UN Water, 2013). Despite this, you have incredible amounts of water being wasted in the Western world, as well as extremely water-intensive practices such as cattle farming and palm oil cultivation growing at an alarming rate. What’s worse it that for both of these things, they have to deforest millions and millions of acres of forest which means complete decimation of habitats and less atmospheric carbon dioxide being absorbed by trees which contributes to climate change.

Climate change is melting Arctic ice. There is no denying it, the data is there for you to see plain and simple. The amount of polar ice being produced each year is decreasing, and sea levels are rising. If you are in any doubt about this, just do a bit of research and you will find everything you need to see. Indigenous people have lived in the Arctic for thousands of years- currently the number of people living in the Arctic is 4 million, with indigenous people making up the majority of that (NSIDC). These people are living with a daily threat of sea ice melt, erosion and storms- threatening their livelihoods as well as their homes. The indigenous people of the Arctic live off of the land in a sustainable way, and yet they are some of the people most at risk from the effects of climate change. How is that fair?

As well as remarkable species not being around for future generations to see, and beautiful landscapes no longer existing, there is a critical human side to the environmental issues we currently face. If you care about people, about humanitarian issues, about global safety and peace…then you should be taking notice of what is happening in the world around you and doing your part to make a difference.

Following the disastrous events of 2016, the outlook for the environment is not a good one. But if we can spread the word about how important it is, about why people should care and about what they can do to make a change- then maybe we can save this planet before it’s too late. Education is key- so don’t be angry that people don’t understand the issues, or aren’t paying attention…take some time to spread the word, to educate yourself and others, and stay positive for a better future.