Greta Thunberg is the leading youth voice on climate change in the world. A native of Sweden, Thunberg was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize award for organizing Fridays for Future youth climate protests. She recently traveled thirteen days and eight hours on a zero-emissions racing yacht boat from England to the United States. Thunberg is willing to cut through all the red tape and spoke boldly to Congress last week.
Greta Thunberg is the face of climate change protests in our world today. And guess what? She is only sixteen years old! Who says that children and youth can’t change the world?
Last Friday an estimated four million young people around across 150 countries took part in protests demanding that governments take action on climate change. One of the largest protests was in New York City on the eve of the UN’s climate action summit. United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres convened the summit in order to “put climate action into higher gear.”
I am fascinated by Greta Thunberg’s unwavering will, passion, and determination to make a difference around climate change. Last Tuesday Thunberg met with Senate Democrats, who said to her, We need your leadership. Young people are the army.” Whereupon Thunberg replied, “Please save your praise. We don’t want it. Don’t invite us here to tell us how inspiring we are without doing anything about it. We don’t want to be invited to these kinds of meetings because, honestly, they don’t lead to anything.”
Thunberg is extremely effective in turning adult compliments into challenges. And she is not afraid to confront us by our inaction on one of the most important issues facing our world.
When Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) stressed that the youth would soon be able to run for office themselves and bring about change, Greta responded quickly, “We don’t want to become politicians, we don’t want to run for office. We want you to unite behind the science. I’m sorry, I know you’re probably trying very hard, and this is not personally to any one of you but generally to everyone. I know you’re trying, but it’s just not hard enough.”
In a divided Congress, bold action on climate change may not come easily. Yet, Greta Thunberg has reminded us once again that, at times, our partisan political climate prevents us from effecting deep change in our states, country, and world.
NASA’s Global Climate Change website presents compelling evidence of the warming of our planet. According to The Intergovernmental Climate Change Panel, “The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is extremely likely (greater than 95 percent probability) to be the result of human activity since the mid-20th century and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented over decades to millennia.” Evidence of global climate change includes global temperature rise, warming oceans, shrinking ice sheets, glacial retreats, decreased snow cover, sea level rise, declining arctic sea ice, extreme events, and ocean acidification.
In case you did not hear it, I am including part of Greta Thunberg’s speech to the US Senate last Thursday. May God speak to us through the courage of this remarkable young woman.
“My name is Greta Thunberg, I am 16 years old and I’m from Sweden. I am grateful for being with you here in the USA, a nation that, to many people, is the country of dreams. I also have a dream: that governments, political parties, and corporations grasp the urgency of the climate and ecological crisis and come together despite their differences – as you would in an emergency – and take the measures required to safeguard the conditions for a dignified life for everybody on earth.
“Because then, we millions of school striking youth, could go back to school. I have a dream that the people in power, as well as the media, start treating this crisis like the existential emergency it is so that I could go home to my sister and my dogs. Because I miss them. In fact, I have many dreams. But this is the year 2019. This is not the time and place for dreams. This is the time to wake up. This is the moment in history when we need to be wide awake. And yes, we need dreams, we cannot live without dreams. But there’s a time and place for everything. And dreams cannot stand in the way of telling it like it is.
“And yet, wherever I go I seem to be surrounded by fairytales. Business leaders, elected officials all across the political spectrum spending their time making up and telling bedtime stories that soothe us, that make us go back to sleep. These are ‘feel-good’ stories about how we are going to fix everything. How wonderful everything is going to be when we have ‘solved’ everything. But the problem we are facing is not that we lack the ability to dream, or to imagine a better world. The problem now is that we need to wake up. It’s time to face the reality, the facts, the science.
“And the science doesn’t mainly speak of ‘great opportunities to create the society we always wanted’. It tells of unspoken human sufferings, which will get worse and worse the longer we delay action – unless we start to act now. And yes, of course, a sustainable transformed world will include lots of new benefits.
“But you have to understand. This is not primarily an opportunity to create new green jobs, new businesses or green economic growth. This is above all an emergency, and not just any emergency. This is the biggest crisis humanity has ever faced. And we need to treat it accordingly so that people can understand and grasp the urgency. Because you cannot solve a crisis without treating it as one. Stop telling people that everything will be fine when in fact, as it looks now, it won’t be very fine. This is not something you can package and sell or ‘like’ on social media.
“Stop pretending that you, your business idea, your political party or plan will solve everything. We must realize that we don’t have all the solutions yet. Far from it. Unless those solutions mean that we simply stop doing certain things.
“Changing one disastrous energy source for a slightly less disastrous one is not progress. Exporting our emissions overseas is not reducing our emission. Creative accounting will not help us. In fact, it’s the very heart of the problem…
“The USA is the biggest carbon polluter in history. It is also the world’s number one producer of oil. And yet, you are also the only nation in the world that has signaled your strong intention to leave the Paris Agreement. Because ‘It was a bad deal for the USA’…
“Everybody says that making sacrifices for the survival of the biosphere – and to secure the living conditions for future and present generations – is an impossible thing to do. Americans have indeed made great sacrifices to overcome terrible odds before.
“Think of the brave soldiers that rushed ashore in that first wave on Omaha Beach on D Day. Think of Martin Luther King and the 600 other civil rights leaders who risked everything to march from Selma to Montgomery. Think of President John F. Kennedy announcing in 1962 that America would ‘choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard…’
“Perhaps it is impossible. But looking at those numbers – looking at the current best available science signed by every nation – then I think that is precisely what we are up against.
But you must not spend all of your time dreaming or see this as some political fight to win.
And you must not gamble your children’s future on the flip of a coin. Instead, you must unite behind the science. You must take action. You must do the impossible. Because giving up can never ever be an option.”
Please, save your praise.