We hear many voices banging on about the threat of rising sea levels, drought and more powerful storms due to global warming. At COP24, (the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change,) famous British naturalist Sir David Attenborough told the gathering that the “collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon” if no urgent action is taken against global warming.
Everyone clapped and nodded, agreeing with every word but their resolve has faded since the conference and not much has been done, anywhere, not even here. Political expediency and the economic model we live by are the drivers to the end of the world as we know it. Our leaders don’t think of the future past their parliamentary term. But what of the future for our children? Who is thinking about that?
Our children and our children’s children will be the victims of our inaction. Mostly they are voiceless, silent. We discount their fears for the future as youthful fantasy. Don’t worry! We know better. Do we, really? Actually we do know, but we don’t want to change our way of life for our children.
I’m going to introduce you to a climate change activist who has thought about the future of our children. She is a child herself and at COP24 she stood up and quietly told the world’s leaders what their inaction means to her and all children on earth.
A Swedish climate activist with Aspergers Syndrome, Greta Thunberg’s interest in the climate was awakened at age 8. Her teachers told her that, to curb global warming, it was important to save energy and recycle. They told her that there’s this thing called climate change and that it’s a very serious threat against their future. The more she learned about it, the more she thought: ‘If this is so serious, why don’t we talk about it, and try to solve it, all the time?’
Greta became a climate champion and tried to influence those closest to her. Her father now writes articles and gives lectures on the climate crisis, whereas her mother, a famous Swedish opera singer, has stopped flying. All thanks to Greta.
In order to convince leaders to take climate action seriously, the 15-year old started a “school strike.” She skipped school every Friday to demonstrate outside the Swedish parliament.
In Sweden, going to school is compulsory. Therefore, Greta Thunberg, 15, was breaking the law.
“What is the point of learning facts when the most important facts given by the finest scientists are ignored by our politicians?” she asks. “Why should any young person be made to study for a future when no one is doing enough to save that future?”
Too young to vote, she protests to make her voice heard and attract media attention to the climate crisis. Her solo protest has now inspired more than 20,000 students around the world to do the same. She refuses to be silent. She refuses to pander to egos. She socked it to the world leaders at the COP24 in Katowice, speaking plainly, expressing her anger. This is what she said.
“My name is Greta Thunberg. I am 15 years old. I am from Sweden. I speak on behalf of Climate Justice Now.
Many people say that Sweden is just a small country and it doesn’t matter what we do. But I’ve learned you are never too small to make a difference. And if a few children can get headlines all over the world just by not going to school, then imagine what we could all do together if we really wanted to. But to do that, we have to speak clearly, no matter how uncomfortable that may be.
You only speak of green eternal economic growth because you are too scared of being unpopular. You only talk about moving forward with the same bad ideas that got us into this mess, even when the only sensible thing to do is pull the emergency brake. You are not mature enough to tell it like is. Even that burden you leave to us children.
But I don’t care about being popular. I care about climate justice and the living planet. Our civilization is being sacrificed for the opportunity of a very small number of people to continue making enormous amounts of money. Our biosphere is being sacrificed so that rich people in countries like mine can live in luxury. It is the sufferings of the many which pay for the luxuries of the few.
The year 2078, I will celebrate my 75th birthday. If I have children maybe they will spend that day with me. Maybe they will ask me about you. Maybe they will ask why you didn’t do anything while there still was time to act. You say you love your children above all else, and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes.
Until you start focusing on what needs to be done rather than what is politically possible, there is no hope. We can’t solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis. We need to keep the fossil fuels in the ground, and we need to focus on equity. And if solutions within the system are so impossible to find, maybe we should change the system itself.
We have not come here to beg world leaders to care. You have ignored us in the past and you will ignore us again. We have run out of excuses and we are running out of time. We have come here to let you know that change is coming, whether you like it or not. The real power belongs to the people. Thank you”.
Watch Greta’s speech here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFkQSGyeCWg
and a longer TED talk here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAmmUIEsN9A