Sixteen-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg provides fresh inspiration to younger generation
BY MEGAN METLER
Special to the VOICE
“Adults keep saying, ‘We owe it to the young people to give them hope.’ 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 if your house is on fire. Because it is.”
Those are the words of Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old climate activist in Sweden. She has received multiple awards and was even nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. If she wins, she’ll be the youngest recipient since Malala Yousafzai, who was 17 when she won in 2014.
Thunberg’s path to becoming a global inspiration started when she was ten, when the idea of climate change was first introduced to her. At that young age, she realized that something was wrong. She couldn’t understand why we weren’t doing anything to stop it and why we continued to do things that made it worse.
When she was 15 she had an idea. She was done sitting around waiting for others to start dealing with climate change. Sweden was having an election and she wanted to share the impact of carbon emissions and greenhouse gases and pressure the politicians to do something about it.
Every day for multiple weeks prior to the election that year, Thunberg sat outside the parliament building with signs. She shared her message on social media and only a few days after she began, youth around the world were doing the same.
“The symbolism of the school strike is that since you adults don’t give a damn about my future I won’t either. Why should we care for our future when we might not have one? And why should we bother to learn facts when facts don’t matter in this society? It’s absurd that young people have to skip school and risk their own education because they are scared of not having a future,” she said.
Thunberg continues her strikes every Friday, which led to the #fridaysforfuture movement. Thousands of protesters are following her example and gathering with signs at town halls and parliament buildings around the world. They have had school strikes for over 50 weeks now.
“I’ve learned you are never too small to make a difference,” Thunberg said. “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.”
The inspiration for her strike came from the Parkland, Florida students who spoke up about gun violence in February 2018. She was inspired because they wouldn’t accept what was happening and they decided to do something about it. They were young and made a big impact. Thunberg wanted to do the same.
She plans to continue the Friday strikes until Sweden is in line with the Paris Agreement on climate change, which addresses greenhouse gas emissions, and the mitigation, adaptation, and finance that’s involved in dealing with them. Each country involved gives regular reports on their carbon emissions and their implementation efforts. Together they are attempting to lower the severity of the issue.
According to Thunberg’s book, “No One Is Too Small To Make A Difference,” scientists say that we have only a five percent chance of meeting the Paris Agreement target. Also, if we don’t keep global warming levels below 2 C we are in for trouble.
To make an even larger impact, Thunberg is vegan and avoids flying, due to the huge carbon footprint airplanes cause.
Her pledge to live a low-carbon life created a challenge that she readily accepted. Greta needed an eco-friendly way to get to the New York Climate Actions Summit on September 23.
She was offered to travel on a zero-carbon race yacht that is equipped with solar panels and underwater turbines to create electricity. The boat is without a washroom or shower and has limited space. There’s a small gas cooker and all their food is freeze-dried.
“It’s not very luxurious, it’s not very fancy, but I don’t need that. I need only a bed and just the basic things,” she said.
The boat has Thunberg’s slogan, “Unite Behind the Science” displayed on the side.
The boat departed from Plymouth, UK, two Wednesdays ago with three crew members, Thunberg, her father, Svante, and filmmaker, Nathan Grossman, who is documenting the trip.
They are expected to arrive in New York today, after a 5337 km trip across the Atlantic ocean.
The flight to New York would be faster, but 1000 kg of carbon dioxide would be released into the atmosphere.
“I want to show that this can be positive and exciting,” said the German captain, Boris Herrmann. “And that solidarity with Greta is not limited to eco-activists.”
Thunberg’s journey doesn’t end there. After she speaks at the New York Climate Actions Summit, she’s taking a year off school and will travel around North and South America. Her goal is to visit communities most affected by climate change and to bring awareness to this issue. She will also speak at the UN Climate Conference in Santiago, Chile in early December.
Though she has many supporters, there are still many that doubt climate change exists and support the fossil fuel industry.
A Fox News contributor and past member of the Trump transition team, Steve Milloy, described Thunberg as “the ignorant teenage climate puppet.”
In response, Thunberg stated that there will always be people that don’t understand or accept the science and that she’ll ignore them and do what she has to do.
She was also asked if she wanted to meet with Donald Trump. She responded that it would be a waste of time, given that he hasn’t been persuaded by the experts.
Thunberg said that many people think climate change is a far-off challenge in the future, but its effects are happening now and that it’s a fight we need to face immediately.
At the 2018 UN Climate Change Conference Thunberg said, “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.”