- Social Justice
With tears in her eyes, 16-year old Greta left a legacy. She asked one question to global leaders: “How dare you?” She had become a viral sensation within a span of a few days.
On Monday, September 23, Swedish teen environmentalist Greta Thunberg grasped everyone’s attention with her fiery address to the United Nation’s Climate Action Summit. “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words,'' Thunberg said with a quiver in her voice.
Her short speech contained harsh criticism on the world leaders’ negligence. Thunberg made it her duty to respond to the lack of change in the world environment in regard to the climate. Her stern remarks on how “they” have burdened her generation with the apocalyptic impacts of climate change left many questioning the conscientiousness of their standing government.
In recent years, there has been a rapid increase in young people pushing for climate action, primarily in countries such as the US and Australia. Even here in Tokyo, more and more young people are marching in the streets of Shibuya with big cardboard posters advocating for change. This is because many natural disasters, such as the 2018 California wildfires, have started becoming more deadly, destructive, and too frequent to be left unnoticed. Especially since the installment of social media has helped deliver news alerts to millions of people instantly, more light has been shed on these visible effects of global warming. In addition, according to the words of UN Secretary-General António Guterres, young people are extremely devoted to furthering climate resilience because “my generation has failed to respond properly to the dramatic challenge of climate change.”
Moreover, climate change denialism has also been amplifying as many climate change skeptics, largely angry middle-aged men have been unafraid to verbally attack many of these young activists. These people include Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison who phrased climate change as “needless anxiety” for teenagers. Some had even gone on to attack Thunberg specifically, such as Conservative commentator Michael J. Knowles who called Thunberg “mentally ill” during his guest appearance of Fox News and English broadcaster Jeremy Clarkson who had described Thunberg’s UN address as a “full-on adolescent meltdown” and asked her to “be a good girl” and “shut up”. According to psychologist Renee Lertzman, seeing young activists standing up causes an emotional strain for a lot of adults since “many of us, with the best intentions, are actually triggering people’s responses to trauma by teaching climate science and ‘raising awareness’,” and because of this “it can be overwhelming, unsettling, and deeply upsetting.”
Nonetheless, global greenhouse gas emissions are increasing and temperatures are rising. The scientific evidence is undeniable and Thunberg, along with many other young climate advocates continue to demand change and fight for our planet.
“Nature is angry”, as António Guterres puts it, and the young people around the world have already done their part in bringing this issue to light. Now, as Thunberg had said, all that is left to be done is for adults to realize and accept that “the eyes of all future generations are upon you”.
Link to Greta Thunberg's speech at the United Nation’s Climate Action Summit: https://youtu.be/