wasted generation 19/03

Antonia Langford

for greta and the school strikers 

we are the wasted generation. 

young of a palimpsest spoiled like fruit by

sated ink and excess; hold us in the way our

mothers did. our confessionals, your android 

dreams of plenty - we have known your 

legacy, drawn it like cartography, traced

the veins of tributaries to our extinction,

held within our palms your heady fictions –

blind leading blind. 

we are the wasted generation. 

we are the shells of cars within your 

wrecking yards, the plastic carcasses that

follow in your wake, the give and take, 

the visitations of a coming

plague; we are the midnight dregs in pint glasses,

the dew on grass as daytime breaks, 

the final breaths and ever-ache.

we are second-hand smoke. 

destined to eulogise our land’s demise,

the soil that spoiled on the

lips of our parents

and clung to us like dust, as if

syntax could redeem us, as if 

semantics could stave off night sweats, the vision

of the world a lithop leaf and we its final incarnation, 

we are the wasted generation.

This poem is based on collective sentiments experienced by youth climate activists I encountered through the Fridays for Future demonstrations. It explores the recent intergenerational lens that has been applied to narratives about the environment and our duty/responsibility towards it. Originally a spoken word piece, it leans on the rhythmic and aural tropes of activist chants and anthems, seeking to connect to audiences on a visceral as well as linguistic level.

*This poem is an edited and extended edition of an original work written in collaboration with the Carbon Literacy Project, performed with Manchester Histories, Take Back, and Extinction Rebellion.

Poetry, EnvironmentjfaComment