EASTER is the season of rebirth, when the Earth renews itself after the long winter. Now in this 11th year since the great Bank Crash of 2008, when world capitalism stood on the brink of chaos, there are at last signs of political renewal.

In recent days, the millennial generation have been taking direct action on climate change – peaceably blockading roads in central London, occupying the Scottish Parliament, and making creative acts of civil disobedience across the UK, including in Manchester, Sheffield, Bristol, Reading, Portsmouth, Norwich, Somerset, Oxford, and York.

This new youth upsurge is global. There have been Extinction Rebellion mass actions in at least 27 countries this spring. This sudden international swelling of revolt is characterised by two developments.

First, it is being spearheaded by the millennial generation – those born in and around 2000 who are now growing into early adulthood. Unexpectedly, this generation has begun rejecting the hopelessness of the neo-liberal consensus and embraced direct political action. They are the true antidote to right-wing populism and the stultifying, neo-liberal economic consensus.

Those born to my generation of post-war Baby-Boomers were rebellious (for a time) in the 1960s and 1970s. We invented rock music, rejected hierarchy and Victorian morality, opposed homophobic laws and secondary status for women, and (initially at least) opposed the nascent consumer society. But this was a social revolution built on shifting sands. A new, more technological capitalism needed millions of highly educated professionals to run it.

Education and affluence gave us the freedom to rebel but ultimately that social rebellion was short-lived. The Baby Boomers eventually grew older, richer and (with more to lose) somewhat conservative.

The generation that followed us were the children of Thatcher, born in a mean-spirited, reactionary era that worshiped individual choice as long as it was in a shop window. Those born and coming to adulthood in the 1980s onwards were told repeatedly that collective political action, state intervention, and non-market values were dangerous fantasies that led only to serfdom and the loss of freedom to shop as we pleased.

This was the era of neo-liberalism and the systematic shutting down of ideological dissent to the point where – as in George Orwell’s 1984 – there was literally no possibility of imagining an alternative sort of world. Unlike Orwell’s vision, this real dystopia was not a totalitarian state. Instead the X and Y generation was trapped in a vast consumer fantasy where you worked like a guinea pig on a wheel, to fund your credit card, while the bankers got super-rich and a despoiled Earth literally began to burn.

Little wonder that greying X-ers and Y-ers became increasingly apolitical in a way the earlier Baby-Boomers never were. Then came the 2008 global economic crisis and the dawning realisation that capitalism, as a system based on debt and endless GDP growth, was running into an existential brick wall.

For frightend, middle-aged X-ers and Y-ers, their immediate response was to hide. They had been told there was no alternative to capitalism, so they pretended that climate change was fake news and that austerity was the fault of elected politicians and the democratic system itself. Soon they became the passive voting fodder for the rise of populist demagogues like Trump and Farage.

But not the new millennials. Their parents, the jaded X-ers and Y-ers, carp that the young folk occupied London are utopians and can afford to be because they don’t have mortgages to pay. That misses the point entirely: the millennials don’t have mortgages – and won’t have – because debt-fuelled, high-growth consumerism has put house prices beyond the reach of the new generation. Capitalism has reached its limit – debt-wise and environmentally-wise. The youth rebellion is a rebellion of the excluded. That is why it is dangerous: the millennials have nothing to lose.

There is something else very significant about the new Extinction Rebellion: it is making specific political demands. This is in contrast to the earlier wave of civil disobedience and global youth upsurge, the Occupy Movement of 2009-2011. This was a sudden response to the banking crisis and the onset of austerity, as governments elected to bail out the existing, failed financial system rather than replace it. The Occupy Movement was given power by the new social media. But its leadership literally rejected having a political programme, in case this limited popular involvement. But “anti-politics”, like its 19th century anarchist forebear, left power in the hands of the existing establishment. As a result, the Occupy Movement quickly petered out.

However, the new Extinction Rebellion – while only in its infancy – has been much more political that the previous Occupy Movement. Rather, it is part of a widespread politicisation of the millennial generation – for instance, the new Democratic Socialists movement in the United States, which has over 50,000 adherents and has elected the first avowedly socialist members of Congress in 70 years.

The Extinction Rebellion current in the UK is calling on the Government to enact legally binding measures to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025. It is also calling for a national Citizens’ Assembly to oversee the changes “as part of creating a democracy fit for purpose”. It is possible to challenge the 2025 date but setting a proximate date is a good way of imposing change on vested interests.

The call for a Citizens’ Assembly is too vague but for the first time it poses a genuine, organisational challenge to the Westminster oligarchy. These are demands to build on. Especially as the Extinction movement has consciously adopted mass protest and peaceful civil disobedience as a tactic – something we in Scotland should keep in mind if Westminster refuses to agree a fresh, legally-binding independence referendum.

The millennial upsurge has other urgent lessons for the SNP, which gathers in Edinburgh at the weekend for its Spring Conference. If the millennial climate change movement does mark a profound generational shift in politics – as I think it does – then the SNP is in danger of falling behind the curve. Expect the radical millennials to ask if an independent Scotland is willing to deliver a systemic break with the economic system that threatens the extinction of life on the planet, and which is driving human beings literally mad by turning them into consumer automatons for the sake of profit?

It is not that the SNP government lacks seriousness in confronting climate change. The new Holyrood Climate Change Bill mandates achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. But this target is in sharp conflict with the SNP Growth Commission report, which promises a doubling of Scottish GDP growth.

This contradiction arises because the Growth Commission is focused on appealing explicitly to the conservative X and Y generation, not to the millennials.

That is not to disparage trying to reach out to middle-aged X-ers and Y-ers, especially those born in rUK. But saying different things to different groups is both unethical and frankly stupid in an era of instant social communications. In a world threatened by environmental catastrophe, the Growth Commission agenda is long out of date. An independent Scotland will be the work of the new millennial generation, or it won’t happen. We need to listen to what they are telling us. And join them in the streets.