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Big Issue founder says the future ‘can’t be compromised by the poor politics of today’

Lord John Bird spoke to audiences in Glasgow as COP26 began its day of focus on “youth and public empowerment”

Big Issue founder Lord John Bird has said the voices of young people will be essential in the fight for a better future, warning that the world is currently “controlled by people who are messing it up big time”. 

Lord Bird spoke to audiences at the One Young World hub, Glasgow, on Friday as COP26 began its day of focus on “youth and public empowerment”. 

He spoke of the importance of preventative action to tackle societal issues like homelessness and climate change, warning that short-term fixes will no longer be sufficient for dealing with the multiple crises now faced by the government.

Currently, a large percentage of money spent on social crises is spent on emergencies, Lord Bird said, rather than being invested into prevention or cure. 

Lord Bird’s Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill, currently going through parliament, would bind public bodies to make decisions in line with the interests of future generations.

“We keep pushing the future back… we have to bring the future right forward,” Lord Bird said of his bill. 

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The cross-bench peer called for a sea change in how we think about and solve problems faced by society today to ensure that fixes are long-term.

“We could make such a noise – we could take this bill and use it as the beginning of an enormous change in politics where we actually plan the future,” he said. 

Lord Bird said that while protest was important, he wanted young people and “people of all ages” to “move beyond protest to engagement”. 

“I want all of us, whatever age we are, to be involved in the process of rethinking the world because the people who are running it are making a dogs’ dinner out of it”. 

On Friday, thousands of young people are expected to gather in Glasgow’s Kelvingrove park for a “Fridays for Future” protest led by environmental activist Greta Thunberg.

Young people have expressed frustration at feeling excluded from COP26, with reports of young activists being shut out of negotiations and meetings in the political “blue zone” of the conference. 

On Wednesday, young activists were reportedly shut out of a meeting involving Chancellor Rishi Sunak after questioning him about subsidies for fossil fuel companies in the UK.

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