Indeed, sometimes those political figureheads’ declarations are downright insulting. Western powers’ repetitive insistence that the ‘free market’ will eventually force solutions to the climate crisis, for instance, is mind-boggling to Rou and anyone else with a clue. “I don’t know how anybody can get away with saying that now,” he stresses. “It’s so obviously bullshit. The market effectively is self-interest and competition. It’s short-sighted and short-termist. Those are the things that go against supporting the natural world. So to say that it has the solutions is wild to me. For a market to work, you have to exploit. Market players aren’t thinking about what they call the ‘market externalities’. You’re not thinking about the damage you’re doing to the environment, because you’re not paying for it. That’s at the core of all environmental problems since day one.”
Greta Thunberg told a meeting of activists at COP26’s outset that politicians are “pretending to take our future seriously.” Is that accusation – of politicians effectively cosplaying – too harsh? “She’s so funny,” Rou grins. “I just love how direct she is. But if you look at the history of COP, that’s probably fair. The big announcement the other day was that the leaders had struck a deal to end all deforestation by 2030. But that’s so similar to a deal made in Paris in 2015, and one before that in 2009. And nothing has happened, really...”
Despite that, he pushes the point, there is hope. In August of this year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a report that confirmed humanity’s damaging impact on the climate is now a “statement of fact”. Rou described a feeling of “helplessness” in its immediate aftermath. The groundswell of youth movement he has seen at COP26 has helped change that.
“When you get to your late-20s/early-30s, you begin to drift into cynicism, because it’s so easy. You sort of feel like you’ve had your chance to save the world. But then the new generation comes in with this energy that wankers would call naïveté but which is actually this beautiful sense of idealism. For me, since the 2019 Climate Fridays For Future protests, I realised that there is a whole generation who don’t just feel a righteous anger, but a complete disconnection from the existing system. They realise that we can actually make the change, because the science is there. Even if you look at the ugly economic side, returns on renewables have been greater than they have on traditional fuel in recent years. Therefore it is now literally just down to political will and overcoming the noose that business and politics have put around renewables.
“It’s more about what’s happening outside of politics that excites me, but yeah, I’m weirdly optimistic!”