Ocean Mist

Issues and trends shaping our environment, health and economy

16 Mar 2019

Leadership from the young

Posted by Michael Keating

Greta Thunberg

Credit: Hanna Franzen, EPA

Can a 16-year-old Swedish schoolgirl get more action on climate change than politicians and business leaders? Last August, Greta Thunberg, then 15, skipped classes and rode her bicycle to the country’s Parliament where she sat on the steps with a sign demanding the government do more to stop climate change. Thunberg continued her protests, missing school every Friday even after the elections. At first, she was alone, but her persistence inspired other young people around the world, and drew respect from people such as the head of the United Nations.  Soon, she became the global voice of youth exasperated by the failure of policymakers to dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions. In December, she told politicians at the COP-24 global climate summit: “You are not mature enough to tell it like is,” and that they were leaving the burden of clean-up to the next generation. She has recently been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Last Friday, hundreds of thousands of students in more than 100 countries followed her lead and walked out of school in a protest dubbed the Youth Climate Strike. The students expressed anger at older generations for not doing enough to fight pollution, and fear for their future on a warming planet. They carried banners with such messages as “I’m not showing up for school because adults aren’t showing up for climate,” and “why should we go to school if you won’t listen to the educated.” Greta Thunberg has joined the ranks of such renowned figures as Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who survived a Taliban assassination attempt because she sought an education. She went on to become a global activist for female education and the youngest Nobel Prize laureate.

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