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The Journey of Greta Thunberg: Inspiration to the Youth

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Greta Thunberg is a 16 years old Swedish girl that has opened the eyes and engaged her generation to join her to demand action against the very real climate change that can result in a catastrophe affecting greatly the new generations. Greta gained popularity by striking school on Fridays to sit in front of the Swedish Parliament to demand action on a movement called “Striking for Climate”. By her emotional and powerful speeches, Thunberg became so popular that her climate activism is being followed by millions of young people around the world. Their demands are to reach the leaders and demand that they listen to the scientists and change current practices which are clearly changing the environment for the worst. The young generation is taking the lead this time as they will be the first ones to live in a new world where resources would be limited, the air will be toxic, the temperatures will have risen and so many species would be long gone. A reality way too close to be ignored.

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A 16 year old Swedish girl gained maximum coverage as she so passionately becomes the face of climate activism. Her name is Greta Thunberg and even though she started this movement alone only by holding a sign saying “strike for climate” in front of the Swedish Parliament, she is now gathering millions of people around the world – mainly children and teenagers – to demand actions from our leaders and to save the world from a climate catastrophe which will mostly affect the young generation and the ones still to come.

Greta says she first heard about the environmental crisis when she was 8 years old as she learned early about saving energy, the importance of recycling and the impacts of global warming, but she never understood how we could all be aware of the current environmental situation but still do so little to change the outcome (Thunberg, 2018).

The youngster was diagnosed by the age of 11 with Asperger’s syndrome, Obsessive-compulsive Disorder (OCD) and selective mutism. The last one, meaning that she only speaks when she thinks it is necessary, which is what is happening at this time, she jokes (Thunberg, 2018). She also refers at her Asperger’s syndrome being a super power that has been engaging her ever since against climate change (Woodward and De Luce, 2019). Greta mentioned that being in the spectrum makes her see things “black and white”, so it is really hard for her to understand why some practices, like burning fossil fuels, that has been proven to threaten our own existence is still not prohibited or even controlled (Thunberg, 2018).

Greta’s movement started in 2018 when she skipped school on a movement called “Fridays for Future” and sat in front of the Swedish Parliament with a sign saying “strike for climate”. But it was when she did a school strike for 2 weeks in front of the same place that she gained international coverage, she was then demanding the Swedish government to cut on emissions by 15% a year (Woodward and De Luce, 2019). When questioned about going back to school, as now she is missing more classes as she campaigns around the world talking about the environmental crisis and demanding actions, she gives a very shocking reality check, just about asking why she would go back to school if her future is jeopardized as she learns new subjects or receives another degree. Some people advised her to pursue a degree and/or a career as a climate scientist to look for options to save the planet, but she is quick to respond that there are already many climate scientists that already have the solution to save our generation from a mass extinction and the reduced access of all the resources we take for granted today, but the leaders and corporations don’t listen or believe in them (Thunberg, 2018). That is why she needs to be out there talking about it, demanding actions and engaging more people to stand with her.

The young activist’s popularity grew so much that she had been meeting with government’s leaders and environmentalists all over the world. She met the Pope, UK and Canada’s leaders, among others to discuss her requests, concerns, actions by those countries and gaining allies to join her in this “fight”. She grew in popularity when she was invited to give a speech at Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) talk in Stockholm that has been viewed online by millions. There she mentioned how we are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction with about 200 species going extinct every day, which demonstrate a rate of 1,000 to 10,000 times higher than the normal pace (Thunberg, 2018).

The most recent speech she gave was at the United Nations (UN) Climate Youth Summit in New York on September 21st, 2019 it was so impactful that it went viral, gaining support by many politicians, celebrities and corporations, but also irritated a few leaders along the way, as expected. Thunberg’s words hit you at the core, she has tears in her eyes and speaks with rage as she calls out some politicians and leaders for their “empty words”.

At the Youth Summit, she opens her speech by saying that it is wrong to have her there, that it is wrong that she is out of school and in another country, so far from home, to talk about this. She uses the sentence “How dare you?” strongly referring to how adults come to young people asking for hope when nowadays so little has been done to save their future. As stated by Gajanan, (2019) “Thunberg grew tearful, as she continued to condemn what she sees as the lack of action on the part of leaders around the world to halt climate change. “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you?””

At the Summit, over 30 scientific facts were mentioned by Thunberg, showing the consequences of our current climate state, facts already well known by our leaders, but yet nothing is being done to change that, some even believe it is all just a hoax. Greta’s demand is simple, she only asks for the leaders to listen to the scientists, to believe in them over the expectancy of financial gain or economic growth. As stated by Epstein and Eilperin (2019) during Greta’s speech at the Summit she mentioned “For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear,” she added. “How dare you continue to look away and come here and say you’re doing enough when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight? You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency, but no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that, because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil, and that I refuse to believe.’ Then she finishes with a warning: “You’re failing us, but the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say, we will never forgive you.””

After the Summit, she gained even more visibility and now she calls students like her to do the same in their own country. A movement inspired by Greta called “Global Climate Strike” brought over 7.6 million people on the week of September 20th to 27th, as the movement’s website states (Global Climate Strike, 2019). This strike was the largest ever seen in the history of this planet on climate change.

As said in the Global Climate Strike (2019), the walkout had children and teenagers from all ages, as well as young adults from over 180 countries participating in this movement to bring awareness on how the young won’t wait for their leaders to do something about it, they will take the matter in their hands by demanding actions. They are not just marching to let us know about the impact that current actions are having on destroying our climate, we already know that for awhile, they are marching – or striking – to demand actions, the changes must be in place right now. This generation and the ones to come, will be the most impacted by the damages which will be irreversible in a few years. We must reduce the carbon emissions, fossil fuel extractions, and save our resources now if we want to save the future generations from a climate completely different (for the worst) that we have today.

The talk on climate change has been happening for quite some time but everything seemed so far away, as if it was going to happen in centuries in the future – not that this should make us any less uneasy. Greta came to open our eyes, as just being a teenager in her high school years, she is encouraging the young generation to claim for their right to grow in a safe world. Scientists have been warning us in the past few years that the change is upon us and soon the damage will be irreversible. It will affect our generation and our children and grandchildren’s life. Global warming is real, the ice sheets are melting, our air is polluted, our rainforest are burning, species are going extinct, our climate is changing, and we can do way more than just sit and watch nothing being done to save us from the catastrophe that is coming. 

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