Preservers of the Planet: Greta Thunberg
During most of your childhood, you were (or still are) constantly reminded by adults around you that you’re too young to be addressing or discussing certain issues. Sometimes it’s about politics, sometimes it’s about that crash you heard coming from your neighbors’ place upstairs, and sometimes it’s about the obscene display of human superiority through a suffocating show of fireworks during festivals. You’re told certain things can’t be changed, that this is the way the world is and you should “pay more attention to academics and your future”. But what if there isn’t a future at all? What if the future in store is not something you’re looking forward to? Or what if your future depends on you talking about an issue that you are considered too young for?
That’s exactly the argument that Greta Thunberg, a teenager from Sweden, made when she started skipping school every Friday, in September 2018, to sit outside the Swedish parliament in protest. What was she protesting against, you ask? The lack of action being taken to curb climate change and therefore jeopardizes the futures of millions of children like herself. Her logic behind bunking school for these protests was simple: what’s the point of going to school to build a future if the future is going to be utterly bleak? That makes sense, right?
Greta first heard about climate change at the young age of eight and was stunned at the apathy toward this crisis. Reeling into depression thinking about the terrifying future, she was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and selective mutism. She started skipping school and spending her time familiarising herself with the climate crisis.
She finally decided to speak her mind and her parents became her first audience. She shared her concerns and worries about ‘their’ future by showing them scientific reports, articles, and pictures about the present and potential horrors of climate change. She did this until they actually took her apprehensions seriously and started making changes in their lifestyles in order to minimize their carbon footprint. They started with the basics: recycling, using public transport or ride share or bicycle for local travel, reducing the use of plastic, switching to led bulbs, and composting their food waste. That’s when she realized that instead of just accepting her fate quietly, she could make a difference by advocating for the right to an agreeable and clean future for millions of children like her.
Greta’s climate strikes were inspired by the March For Our Lives protests initiated by the students in the United States of America against gun violence and lax firearms’ laws in the country, as an aftermath of the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Initially, it was a one-woman (or girl), protest with a hand-painted banner saying Skolstrejk för klimatet (school strike for the climate) outside the Swedish parliament. She had almost no support from her parents, school teachers, or even classmates.
However, in less than a year not only did other youth and adults join her, but her climate strikes turned into a global movement with over 100 countries and more than 1.9 million participants protesting with her across the world.
Greta dedicated every Friday to the name of climate justice and that’s how the Fridays For Future movement started. Fridays For Future, as the movement is called, is mostly youth-led and peaceful in nature. Their agenda is clear: urging world leaders to mobilize immediate action to stop emitting gases that cause climate change and to address the existing impacts of this global calamity.