“What’s the point of going to school if we don’t have a future?” This might sound like a Monday morning whine from a teenager – but 17-year-old environmental activist Greta Thunberg was deadly serious when she posed this question to the UN secretary-general. With her “school strike for the climate,” the Swedish teen has galvanized a generation of young people who, while not responsible for creating the climate crisis, will bear the brunt of the consequences, including increased floods and droughts, rising sea levels, and global political instability.
What started as a lone schoolgirl silently protesting in front of the Swedish parliament every Friday has grown into a worldwide movement, with millions of young people around the world joining Thunberg to call for immediate action from their governments. She doesn’t mince her words when urging global leaders to take action, telling delegates at the World Economic Forum in Davos last year, “Solving the climate crisis is the greatest and most complex challenge that Homo sapiens have ever faced. The main solution, however, is so simple that even a small child can understand it.” Her uncompromising stance has led her to being nominated for this year’s Nobel peace prize for the second consecutive year and invitations to speak at the Climate Action Summit in New York and the UN climate conference in Santiago.
Since she refuses to fly, she undertook the two-week journey from the UK in a solar-powered yacht. “Adults keep saying, ‘We owe it to the young people to give them hope,’” she said at Davos 2019. “But I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.”
With the window for them to act getting smaller, her voice is more urgent than ever.