Youth has power in the fight against climate change. Greta Thunberg will not be silenced, and she is not willing to let the leaders of powerful nations belittle her anger and outrage over their lack of action against the looming threat of climate change.
During the 2019 United Nations Climate Action Summit, 16-year-old Thunberg made a plea so powerful that it was heard around the world. Her commentary on the global political silence and inaction regarding environmental threats made even the likes of powerful leaders such as Trump and Putin take awkward and publicly humiliating defensive positions.
Thunberg is one of the loudest voices in climate change activism and her message is clear: there is no excuse for the lack of action. We need more young women like Thunberg to build even more momentum and truly spark the change we so desperately need around the globe.
Voices of Change
Women in leadership positions around the world are vocal about demanding gender equality while simultaneously proving to be powerfully impactful advocates regarding matters that benefit the welfare of society. When it comes to climate change, individual actions can only do so much. We need the voices of young women bringing these issues to the forefront and prompting global action.
Female activists have always paved the way for sweeping changes. From women’s suffrage to #MeToo, and from protesting dictatorship in the Dominican Republic to ending child marriage in India, women have always spoken up about social and environmental injustices. We need these voices of change more than ever now, as we face the existential threat of climate change.
The Less Than Graceful Responses of Two of the World Leaders
Greta Thunberg may be only 16, but she has already managed to put two of the world’s most powerful men in an awkward position with her powerful and impassioned message, forcing them to respond to criticism of their own inadequacies and inaction. Neither responded to the teen’s activism gracefully.
Donald Trump, in his normal fashion, took to Twitter to mock Thunberg after her speech at the U.N. Unsurprisingly, all this did was to fuel the fire of Thunberg’s outrage in her supporters and to spark criticism of the President’s choice to belittle the activist. Many critics pointed out that not only has Thunberg sparked a powerful movement but that she is delivering eloquent speeches in her second language and mobilizing youth around the world.
Vladimir Putin used different tactics than Trump and did not mock Thunberg publicly, but he did dismiss her as being uninformed and possibly manipulated.
Thunberg had no time for Putin’s dismissal and used his words in her Twitter bio to describe herself as “a kind but poorly informed teenager,” making a mockery of his comments and showing that she has no time for politicians’ ungraceful attempts to discredit young activists.
The Tenacity to Make a Difference
Greta Thunberg’s impassioned speech highlighted the importance of acknowledging how female leaders contribute to society. While many people are worried about climate change, few have the tenacity and persistence to start and keep an activism movement going.
According to Brian Snyder, assistant professor in the department of environmental sciences at Louisiana State University Online, “I do think that we are witnessing a changing of the guard in climate activism. Previously, the climate activists were people like James Hansen or Michael Mann, who are not really activists but scientists with opinions. That is, they have spent decades studying climate change and that has led them to be vocal and testify in Congress, but they are not primarily activists.”
Thunberg’s speeches are highly critical of politicians and she is somewhat confused by the praise she has received from many world leaders who are still not taking action on climate change. Her candidness and contempt for powerful men and women in office and her inability to be distracted from her message has given her massive power in the fight against climate change.
“Ms. Thurnberg is different. She is an activist. And I do think other young people will become leaders in climate activism, as they were in the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s. Many of those leaders appear to be coming from the developing world, but the plaintiffs in the children’s climate lawsuit might be domestic examples,” Snyder says.
Young People Are the Future
No one can say that Thunberg is a hypocrite. To reach the UN summit, she traveled by sea on a sailboat, a journey that took weeks. Within Europe, she travels by train and only eats a vegan diet. She keeps a grueling schedule of going to school and writing speeches, which can take 12-15 hours a day.
Greta walks the walk, which is just one of the many reasons that the world is sitting up and taking notice. A once-quiet girl from Sweden has proven just how important young women are in the fight for our planet.
Thunberg herself once thought that she was too small to make a difference. But she could never get the horrifying consequences of climate change out of her head, giving her the courage to face down world leaders and hold them accountable for their actions. She proves that even one teenager can make a huge difference in our world.
“I think that young people who want to get involved in climate issues should go to college and maybe grad school and learn about climate science and policy and especially communications. I think we need way more people that can communicate climate science and ethics to non-specialist audiences,” says Snyder.
Watch this Related Video:
Greta Thunberg Does The Carbon Budget Math
This content is sponsored by Andrew Deen.
Photo credit: Screenshot from The YEARS Project video