Teen climate activist Greta Thunberg has once again captured our attention in an electrifying and emotional address to the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York.
“This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean, yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you.”
The Swedish climate campaigner Greta Thunberg has addressed the UN in an inspiring display of condemnation of world leaders’ apathy and self-interest. Thunberg has ramped up her criticism of leaders’ inaction on the issue of climate change, the single biggest existential threat facing our world today.
“Right here, right now is where we draw the line”
In a brief, impassioned address, Thunberg chastised attendees for their lack of action. Ms Thunberg warned that the level of emissions cuts being discussed gave the planet a 50 per cent chance of meeting the goal of a 1.5C increase in warming. It’s clear that those odds are nowhere near good enough.
Addressing the summit and the world, Thunberg said,
“You are failing us. But 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.”
Ms Thunberg has shown her commitment to the cause by arriving in the US last month on a solar-powered yacht. More than fifty world leaders are taking part in the summit, only permitted to speak if it is to offer up action plans to address the climate crisis. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and US President Donald Trump were both notably absent from the summit, with Trump stopping by to briefly listen in to one speech before attending a meeting on religious freedom.
“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”
The Rights of the Child
After she addressed the summit, Thunberg, accompanied by 15 other young activists, filed an official complaint with the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, asserting that inaction on climate change amounts to a significant violation of the rights of children around the world. “They promised to protect the rights of the child and they have not done this”, Thunberg said at a media conference.
The respondent countries include some of the largest carbon emitters worldwide—Brazil, Argentina, France, Germany and Turkey— that have signed a protocol declaring the civil, economic, social, political and cultural rights of children.
Young people have the most to lose in the face of this crisis, “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth.”
Thunberg is proving her bravery in the face on what seems like an insurmountable obstacle. She puts every world leader to shame with her decisive, determined language. Her anger is clear, and necessary.
“How dare you continue to look away and come here saying you are doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are nowhere in sight?”
This speech comes just days after millions of people worldwide protested for action on climate change. Greta Thunberg has made headlines worldwide for single-handedly orchestrating these calls to action. Combined they form the biggest climate protest in the world’s history.
The movement began from a solo protest that Thunberg held just last year outside the Swedish Parliament. Her protest soon went viral, inspiring people around the world to take up the call to arms. The movement’s exponential growth is a testament to Thunberg’s fierce determination.
The “Greta Thunberg Effect”
In an explosion of the strike movement, people joined in protests across the world, from the Pacific Islands, Australia, Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. For the first time, adults were called to join the strike. Trade unions showed solidarity and workers from all walks of life walked out to join students in protest. An estimated 185 countries held climate strikes. The “Greta Thunberg effect” has been named to describe the influence she has had on the climate change movement. It’s also important to remember that there are other young people from diverse backgrounds fighting for climate justice around the world, including Alexandria Villaseñor, Isra Hirsi, Xiye Bastida, and more.
In February, Ms Thunberg posted on Facebook responding to the hate that she has received,
“Many people love to spread rumors saying that I have people ”behind me” or that I’m being ”paid” or ”used” to do what I’m doing. But there is no one “behind” me except for myself… I am absolutely independent and I only represent myself ”.
The fact that a sixteen year old even has to defend herself against claims such as these is shameful. She also addressed her diagnosis of Asperger’s in the post, stating “Some people mock me for my diagnosis. But Asperger is not a disease, it’s a gift.”
Thunberg makes many adults uncomfortable. They are not used to being lectured by young people, especially not about their generation’s profoundly damaging impact on the environment. Worse still, many are resistent to her message out of sheer greed and lack of empathy for the future generations left to clean up their mess. Thunberg’s perspective and bravery is desperately needed.
Greta Thunberg is the voice of her generation and an inspiration to all of us. She does not believe that formal niceties and flattery will result in any change from world leaders. She has one clear objective: to force leaders to act now, before it is too late. And for that she is unapologetic.
Speaking to the UN on behalf of her entire generation, Ms Thunberg said, “We will not let you get away with this”.
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