Year of Thunberg
Greta Thunberg arrives in North America
By now, Greta Thunberg is a household name. 2019 is still four months from being a thing of the past, but as the world’s most well–known climate change activist, this 16-year-old Swede has so clearly claimed the year as her own, and it’s not difficult to see why.
Thunberg is best known for her weekly climate strikes titled “Fridays for Future.” The movement began just over a year ago when the soon-to-be Grade 9 student took to the Swedish parliament buildings, missing school for three consecutive weeks. Starting in September of 2018, Thunberg persisted and went to the parliament in place of school every Friday. Her goal was for climate policy in Sweden to align with that of the Paris Agreement.
In January, four months after the start of Fridays for Future, and just one month after speaking at the United Nations 24th Conference of the Parties of the Climate Change Convention, Thunberg delivered an iconic speech in Davos, Switzerland as a part of the World Economic Forum. “Our house is on fire” she opened, going on to warn that time is of the essence and that the solution lies in the elimination of greenhouse gas emissions.
That same month, Thunberg also delivered a TED Talk to a local audience in Stockholm that made waves on the global stage, increasing the girl’s celebrity. When she speaks, Thunberg is commanding and impressive, though unassuming. The young activist speaks to her experience living with Autism Spectrum Disorder, stating that most things appear to her as black or white. Stopping climate change however, she argues, is, in fact, black–or–white; we either act or we don’t. Thunberg’s audience turns icy as her existential plea becomes clear. She incites a sense of shame into her listeners, an effective way to grab our attention. She begs the question of her future and the uncertainty surrounding it. What kind of world are those of us in power creating for generations to come?
Thunberg continued to spread her message by commencing a European tour throughout the month of April, making stops at the European parliament, the Vatican, and the United Kingdom Parliament. However, given Thunberg’s cause, the 16-year-old made the trek via train. “Flygskam,” or “flight-shame,” is catching traction in wealthier places like Sweden, with individuals avoiding air-travel due to its heavy carbon emissions, despite its convenience, causing train travel to become more attractive.
Now, Thunberg has completed a two-week sailing trip across the Atlantic in order to reach a summit on zero emissions set to take place this month at the United Nations in New York City. Flying was obviously out of the question. The journey was accomplished instead with Thunberg aboard a zero–emissions yacht using solar power. She was met with inspired crowds as she landed in New York to begin her journey in the Western Hemisphere. Thunberg also intends to voyage to Chile later in the year for annual UN climate talks.
The teenager has three million followers on her Instagram account and 1.3 million Twitter followers watching her momentum build. Thunberg’s critics, though not as abundant as her supporters, are explicit in their disapproval. They include the likes of Australian columnist Andrew Bolt who referred to the young woman as ‘deeply disturbed’ while Canadian politician, Maxime Bernier, tweeted that Thunberg, a ‘climate alarmist cult saint,’ will be bringing ‘her apocalyptic message to the US and Canada,’ upon her recent arrival in New York. Meanwhile, Thunberg is focused on her purpose and has voiced that the ignorant opinions of these men are not worth her time and actually demonstrates how fearful they are of the truth.
Greta has received numerous recognitions from across the globe for her activism including the Prix Liberté from France, the Fritt Ords Prize from Norway celebrating freedom of speech, as well as being named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2019. Additionally, Thunberg is a nominee for the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize, scheduled to be announced the 7th of October. Should Thunberg win, she will be the youngest ever of the award’s recipients.
In what Thunberg is describing as the most critical time for action, Krakow, Edmonton, Sydney, Ottawa, and New York are 5 of over 800 municipalities/jurisdictions across the globe to declare a climate emergency. In joining the war on climate change, these cities are making an effort to do their part to reduce emissions while also empowering municipal governments to take charge when the greater structural powers at play are choosing to be complacent in the Earth’s extreme warming.
Thunberg has declared the 20-27 of September a week of action for climate change. Protestors, students, and activists around the world will be demonstrating their right to a clean and healthy future. Thunberg implores the world’s participation. It’s not a battle that can be won on her own, nor in just one day or one week. It is, however, a chance to speak out and demand the attention of those who have refused to listen before. The burden of climate change has consistently been shrugged off to the next, younger generation, but it’s time to take ownership of our species’ mistakes. The climate crisis is still a crisis. So, let’s start acting like we’re in one.