“My name is Greta Thunberg, I am 15 years old, and I'm from Sweden.” This is how the famous student began her inaugural speech at the recent Climate Change Conference in Katowice (Poland). Displaying an aplomb and vehemence rarely seen in someone her age, she stirred the consciences of world leaders for failing to take action on the climate crisis.
Since last August, Greta has been protesting outside Swedish parliament every Friday, demanding a greater commitment in the fight against global warming. She has become the environmental hero of our time and was recently named Woman of the Year in her home country, as well as winning the prestigious Right Livelihood Award—considered the alternative Nobel Prize—and becoming the subject of fervent media coverage.
Her clear and honest message has resonated with young people everywhere—and this young generation has decided to stand up for their future, aware that they will be the ones to bear the consequences of uncontrolled climate change, which is pushing us toward the worst-case scenarios described by scientists.
Video of Greta Thunberg speaking at the Climate Change Conference in Katowice (Poland)
This is why they decided to take action and form the international Fridays for Future movement, an exercise in responsibility that has taken everyone by surprise and amazed many of us.
The student movement enjoys wide social support and, with Greta Thunberg at the helm, is recruiting children, teenagers, and young adults from around the world to join an enormous social infantry: a salvation army to protect the environment and fight climate change.
The powerful youth response in defense of the climate coincides with that of a much older and world renowned ecologist: the celebrated naturalist and environmental communicator, Sir David Attenborough. He recently called for urgent, large-scale climate action on all levels, because he believes that “we are facing a man-made disaster of global scale.”
At the same summit, the veteran BBC Earth broadcaster, who is about to turn 94, called on world leaders to act quickly. “We must acknowledge what we have done, admit our mistakes, and accept the responsibility we have to future generations.”
Curiously enough, it didn't occur to anyone back then to cast doubt on the timeliness of what the old naturalist was saying, or question the way in which he said it: using vehement gestures up at the podium, pointing his finger at the world's biggest leaders seated in the front row of the auditorium. “Time is running out, and I ask myself, what are you waiting for?”
However, when a young woman like Greta Thunberg dared to voice those same concerns and addressed those same world leaders—telling them, “You say you love your children above all else, and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes”—she was vilified and quickly labeled by some as “a threat to global stability.”
Greta Thunberg heads the Fridays for Future student movement
A threat to global stability? A teenage girl who simply says publicly what scientists have been saying for decades? What is truly dangerous is the unbearable contempt, the immense irresponsibility displayed by politicians in response to the greatest threat to humanity (not to the planet, which will go on long after human beings have vanished from Earth). The climate emergency is jeopardizing the future of our species on Earth.
On several occasions, president Putin has declared that he does not share “the widespread enthusiasm” about the student response led by the young activist, while the ineffable Donald Trump mocked her in a tweet: “She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!”
Greta Thunberg's words are as true as they are brave. “Until you start focusing on what needs to be done, rather than what is politically possible, there is no hope: we cannot solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis.” This is why the Fridays for Future movement brings hope to those of us who have been pushing for an immediate response to climate change in different sectors of society—a collective response that will make it possible to avoid the worst-case scenario.