Young Environmental Activist Who is less Interested in Hope for the Future, but rather Change in the Present
Her recent speech at the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit, along with many inspiring voices, was perhaps loudest and most impactful of them all. She is a sixteen-year-old Swedish girl who is rapidly becoming a flash point for those in the movement to raise awareness of the global emergency of global warming and climate change. Her name is Greta Thunberg, and her goal is to evoke immediate change in the way the world is handling the climate crisis.
Born in 2003, Greta Thunberg dropped out of school at the age of fifteen to begin a career in environmental activism. Entirely self-motivated, Thunberg started out by protesting outside of the Swedish parliament building. Since then, she has spoken at Climate Action meetings around the world, criticizing leaders for a lack of effort and campaigning for transformation on behalf of the younger generation.
Greta has gotten the attention of many fellow activists, celebrities, and leaders over the past week, among them are Anne Hathaway, Leonardo DiCaprio, and former President Barak Obama, many of whom have met with her in person and all of whom have expressed their support via social media. This year Time magazine named her a “next generation leader” and many have pointed to her as an inspiring symbol of youth leadership.
Greta Thunberg’s intention is not to inspire hope, though, and she is not interested in waiting for the “next generation” to solve the environmental issues of today. Her speech from the Climate Action Summit went viral. In it, she cautions leaders not to feel hopeful, and instead urges them to “panic,” react, and change their ways now. She wants people to see the climate crisis for what it is—a crisis.
Urgency in Equal Measure to the Problem at Hand
Her veracious rhetoric is contrary to the diplomatic way that many activists and politicians talk about climate change. Given that we have known about global warming for generations, yet have made very little progress in preventing its effects, the human race may be beyond diplomacy by now. And if we aren’t already, we will be at a tipping point sometime within the young Thunberg’s life.
While many rebellious young people may throw education to the wayside to pursue dreams of becoming celebrities or attaining fortunes, Greta Thunberg simply stumbled into fame, and there is hardly any money attached to the work that she does. Thunberg may be inspiring many of her peers and becoming a face of change, but she is not in it for personal recognition or gratification. The young activist—who is also diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder—simply has an uncontrollable itch to save the world from this impending environmental catastrophe. Uncontrollable, yet absolutely rational.
Haters Hate but the Numbers of Believers is Rising
Despite all of the praise that Greta Thunberg has received, her efforts are not without criticism, particularly from the American far right and even President Trump. Some of her resistors are simply climate change-deniers who do not believe in the scientifically viable phenomena that she is combating. Others, however, scoff Greta for being a no more than a kid filled with teenage pathos that should not be taken seriously. Nevertheless, Thunberg’s speeches are well grounded in scientific evidence and on top of that, her emotions are perhaps reflective of how we should all feel, knowing that consequences for our destruction of the natural world are right around the corner.
In total, although Greta Thunberg is not aiming to evoke hope, but rather direct action when it comes to fighting climate change, we cannot help but applaud her bravery and get a surge of inspiration from her. With any luck, older generations will listen to her as but one among billions of young people who are concerned for the future, and actually do something about the problem. Until then, we salute Greta Thunberg and strive to do whatever we can as individuals to take her message to heart and make her efforts worthwhile.
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