“People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction. And all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!” -- This was the headline quote on the world’s mass media within minutes after Greta Thurnberg emotionally addressed the United Nations “action summit” on climate change, September 23, 2019.
It has been a remarkable couple of weeks for 16 year-old Greta. After sailing across the Atlantic on a sailboat to avoid carbon emissions (and to make headlines), Greta spent her time going from one TV appearance to another, and then spoke at a US congressional hearing where she boldly presented Congress with copies of a UN scientific report on climate change which she suggested they read, as they should already have done, and then act. On Saturday as many as 4 million people in 150 countries joined the “Global Climate Strike” billed as primarily a young people’s movement, at least to begin with. Greta was the impetus for this worldwide “strike.” Greta addressed the crowd of 250,000 in New York City telling them, “Our house is on fire … it’s time to act.”
Greta began her activism a year ago by skipping school on Fridays and sitting outside the Swedish Parliament with a sign “Strike for the Climate”. She was joined by a few other students some Fridays, and then other students in other cities across Europe began to “strike for the climate”. Greta began to get world attention when she was invited to speak at the UN COP24 Climate Summit in Poland in December last year (2018). “Since our leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago,” Greta told leaders at the summit. “We have to understand what the older generation has dealt to us, what mess they have created that we have to clean up and live with. We have to make our voices heard.” Her speech was remarkable in that she commanded climate change facts combined with strident assertions that it was time for the next generation to arise and act since the older generations were stubbornly refusing to do so. Shortly after that 3 Norwegian Members of Parliament nominated Greta for a Nobel Prize, to be awarded in December.
A number of things can be said about Greta Thurnberg, and they have been said by countless commentators. But I wish to highlight a few:
“Greta! Greta! Greta!” the throng of youthful strikers chanted in New York last Friday. A person has made it to the level above front page headlines when they are known around the world by their first name.
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.