Photograph courtesy of irishtimes.com
By Joe Thorpe
“…I only speak when I think it’s necessary. Now is one of those moments” — Greta Thunberg, TEDx Talk, Stockholm, November 2018.
In August 2018, then 15-year-old Greta Thunberg of Sweden took it upon herself to speak up about the world’s passivity toward global climate change. Thunberg, inspired by the Parkland student survivor-activists in Florida, designed herself to action.
Against her parents’ wishes and having failed to persuade any of her peers to join her, Thunberg alone skipped her 9th grade classes and sat in front of the Swedish Parliament building. She came bearing a sign, which translated to English read, “school strike for climate.” Thunberg also handed out leaflets to passerby reading, “I am doing this because you adults are shitting on my future.” Thunberg was demanding the Swedish government reduce carbon emission in accordance with the 2016 Paris Agreement on climate change.
Climate change is the result of human activity, mainly the production of polluting greenhouse gases, methane and nitrous oxide emissions. These gases cause a rise in global temperatures, which has catastrophic consequences to the planet and all life therein. The emissions mainly come from burning fossil fuels, livestock farming and whose effects are amplified due to increasing deforestation.
The alarm for climate change sounded in 1988 when James Hansen, a climate scientist, testified before the U.S. Senate that, “the greenhouse effect has been detected and is changing our climate now.” The overwhelming majority of peer-reviewed publishing scientists as well as the leading scientific organizations in the world agree that climate change is rapidly increasing.
Thunberg’s solo school strike gathered the world’s attention through her social media accounts and those of other prominent climate activist organizations.
In 2018, Thunberg addressed the United Nations Climate Change Conference. After which began, in what has been termed ‘The Greta Effect’, more organized climate change strikes by school children worldwide. The protests have become known as ‘Fridays for Future.’ Since then, it is estimated that there has been a school strike somewhere in the world every week. There have also been two organized, international multi-city protests, with over 1 million students participating.
Thunberg also gained support from politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and academics around the world.
The 16-year old Thunberg is not without her critics, however. Those who have been labeled climate deniers are hyperbolic propagandists who speak, along with corrupt politicians, as the instruments of polluting manufacturing elitists whose interests lie solely on maintaining exuberant profit margins to the detriment of human and environmental costs.
Her critics claim that the world is too complex, that action to prevent climate change will prevent countries in poverty from gaining wealth and that Thunberg’s “radical positions antagonize our societies,” as claimed French President Emmanuel Macron, are the empty excuses of large corporations and politicians serving their own self-interests.
British businessman and political donor Arron Banks even went so far as to tweet, “freak yachting accidents do happen in August,” as Thunberg undertook a transatlantic voyage from Plymouth, U.K. to New York, to reduce the carbon emissions of air travel.
Thunberg, a 16-year old girl, has been the subject of public bullying by powerful political leaders such as Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, various media outlets and internet keyboard-cowards. They mock Thunberg’s intelligence, appearance and even her Asperger’s syndrome, in an attempt to fill the eyes, ears and minds of the world with disinformation and propaganda.
Since Thunberg’s activism has spread, she has been nominated for or received over 17 different awards and honors. Thunberg was named one of Time magazine’s 25 most influential teens of 2018, and Thunberg was a nominee for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.
In 2019, Penguin publishing, in cooperation with Thunberg, released a collection of 11 climate action speeches given by Thunberg titled No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference.
“Our house is on fire… Solving the climate crisis is the greatest and most complex challenge that Homo sapiens have ever faced,” said Thunberg. “And on climate change, we have to acknowledge we have failed. The main solution, however, is so simple that even a small child can understand it. We have to stop our emissions of greenhouse gases.”
A brief summation of Greta Thunberg’s dedication and effect to climate change action would, even by a mighty pen, fail to impart upon its reader the power of speech held by this one child on a planet of 7.7 billion people.
“Adults keep saying ‘We owe it to the young people to give them hope,’” Thunberg goes on to say. “But I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.”
In the lexicon of human language there is but one word that utters the position of Greta Thunberg in our society—that word is hero.
You can follow Greta Thunberg on facebook @gretathunbergsweden, instagram @gretathunberg and twitter @GretaThunberg.