Children may be the future – but so are we

I saw a placard this week which read “when our children act like leaders and our leaders act like children, you know we’re in trouble”.

We are definitely in a world where the young people are making more sense than the adults, but I’m not sure that means we are in trouble.

From the young people I’ve been fortunate enough to hear this week, I think that means we are in some pretty safe pairs of hands. Provided, of course, that we, that you, that those in power, listen to what they have to say.

Everyone will have heard Greta Thunberg’s moving speech at the UN Climate Change Summit in New York this week.

“I shouldn’t be up here,” she said, holding back tears. “I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you.

“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words, yet I am one of the lucky ones. People are suffering, people are dying. Complete ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you.”

Some of you will have also heard this week from the excellent Emma Greenwood, youth MP for Bury (pictured), who joined me in Manchester on Wednesday for EG’s latest Question Time.

Greenwood is 15. She stole the show.

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham opened the night by laying out his ambitions for the Manchester region becoming a leader. A leader on environmental change, social value, and in developing places and spaces that work for all. He was great. As were our other panellists – you can read all about what they had to say in EG next week – but none of them, and I know they’ll agree with me on this, were quite as great as Greenwood. She was the leader that night.

This was a 15-year-old who was able to eloquently talk about the future of real estate, about politics, about social value and about climate change in a way that resonated with an audience more than double her age.

This was a 15-year-old whose views on what we as an industry needed to be doing were greeted with a round of applause by the investors, developers, agents and civil servants in the room. How often are you moved to applaud our adult leaders today?

While it does seem unfair that us adults have called on the kids to come up with solutions to the problems that we and the generations before us have caused, it seems to me that they are the ones with the unclouded views of what is true and what is right. They are the ones who are unafraid to call out injustice and, dare I say it, the stupidity of so many of us adults.

We’ve never had a 15-year-old on an EG panel before. Now, I believe we should never have a panel without one. If we want an unbiased view on the future, a view that hasn’t been contaminated by the fairy tale of sustainable growth, we need to look to the next generation. It absolutely should not lay on their shoulders to fix the problems we have caused. That is our burden. But we need to hear their voices, so that we can become the solution.

 If you’re passionate about finding a way to be a part of that solution, join EG at our Future of Real Estate conference in November. It’s an event unlike any other, where you will be part of the debate and part of the key to delivering a sustainable future for the sector. Click here to find out more and book your ticket.

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For more on sustainability in real estate: EG Sustainability hub