We have heard a common phrase — “Age is just a number!” — generally used in reference to older people trying to do jobs or activities suitable for younger ones.
In the case of Greta Thunberg and many other young environmental activists, it is quite the opposite.
17 years old teenager, Greta Thunberg, has emerged as one of the leading voices of environment and climate change.
What is Greta Thunberg’s Story?
The girl from Sweden first emerged on the international scene for her strong criticism of the world leaders for failing to act on Climate Change. “How dare You” is what she said at the UN Climate Summit.
From August 2018, at the age of 15, Thunberg started protesting outside the Swedish parliament during school hours with a sign painted with the words, “Skolstrejk for Klimatet” (School Strike for Climate). Initially, passersby ignored the young girl, but slowly people took notice.
A ‘Friday for Future’ movement was kickstarted on social media and it inspired millions of other students to join protests from around the world. Hundreds of students from different cities in the world lined up in front of their local parliament “to put moral pressure on policymakers”.
She took a gap year to propagate environmental causes and in recognition of her services, Greta was named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year for 2019.
In September 2019, Thunberg, along with few other young activists, filed a complaint at the United Nations against five countries for not doing their bit against global warming.
The stature of Thunberg has increased manifold in the last couple of years; it is not only that she is getting the support from young people, but have also won the admiration from the older generation.
Such is her influence that street protesters and environmental activists have been seen raising placards that said, ‘Make the World GRETA Again’.
Greta has been nominated again this year for the Nobel Peace Prize 2020, one of the world’s top accolades. The nomination was made by the lawmakers from Sweden and Norway. The second nomination in as many years has made her strong favorite to win the $1 million prize.
She has written the book, No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference, which is a collection of her speeches at various international forums. She has appeared on famous US TV shows like TheEllenShow with Ellen DeGeneres and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.
In Sep 2020, her story was released as a big-budget documentary ‘I am Greta’. The documentary directed by Swedish filmmaker Nathan Grossman shows her as a dedicated teenager working towards preserving the planet.
Here is the trailer of the documentary
What is the Other Side of the Story?
The shouts, the tears, the silence, the placards from Greta has not gone unnoticed. The leaders, the powerful men of the world have taken note of her — but most of it is a little contrarian.
Russian President Vladimir Putin at the UN conference had his own option where he said
“ Well I may disappoint you but I don’t share the common excitement about the speech by Greta Thunberg,” The President added “ No one has explained to Greta that the modern world is complex and different and…people in Africa or in many Asian countries want to live at the same living standard as in Sweden. But how to achieve that? Probably make them use solar energy. Has someone explained to her how much it costs?”
After TIME magazine announced Greta Thunberg as the ‘Person of the Year 2019’, US President Donald Trump in his own style gave his feedback
“So ridiculous. Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill,”
Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro compared Greta to “ pirralha”, a Portuguese word which loosely translates to “little brat” or “pest”.
Critics have blamed Greta Thunberg’s parents, opera singer Malena Ernman and actor Svante Thunberg, for exploiting her childhood for money and fame.
Then there are people who have criticized her for overreacting and exaggerating the facts. There are also objections to the fact that she has not done enough on the ground and her fame is overhyped.
Let Kids be Kids? or Let them Change the Planet?
Some might say let the kids be kids, they should not get into topics which they don’t understand, fair enough!! Most 10 to 15-year-olds will not understand the technicalities of Climate Change, but they definitely are aware of the plastic and litter which they see while playing on the beaches. They are equally conscious of the polluting vehicles and they definitely notice the extremities of the weather.
If they see a problem, they also want to understand it and solve it in their own way.
Hence, it is not surprising to see youth activism seriously rising; many teenagers and young adults have taken to the streets and social media to voice their opinion. Kids from all over the world can be seen skipping schools to participate in the protest marches or express their anger on the inabilities of the political leadership.
Many of them have even started their own initiatives to tackle issues related to pollution and waste. We can find many kids volunteering for activities like tree plantations, beach cleanups, renovating litter spots, etc.
The doubters say that these teenagers do such activities more for Instagram clicks and social media posts but even if it so, what’s wrong? Will, we not appreciate more greenery, clean beaches, and litter-free surroundings?
We have ignored the problem of the climate crisis for far too long and it is now about acting on and solving the problem which will benefit future generations. Whether it is the kids, teenagers, or you and me — all of us need to work as a community for a common purpose. Age is just a number when it comes to dealing with climate change, all of us are responsible and need to take action.
“You have stolen my childhood with your empty words. You are failing us and young people are starting to understand your betrayal.”
- Thunberg had told the world leaders at the UN Summit.
Love her or hate her, she is making a point and so are thousands of other youngsters.
Originally published at https://changestarted.com on September 25, 2020.