Things are really changing now, even from only a few years ago, we couldn’t have predicted both the changes in our beliefs and the teenage global climate protests with Greta Thunberg at the helm. In the city where I live teenagers took to the streets to join the worldwide protests. I feel proud of them for standing up and speaking their minds. Now teenagers in general get a bad rapt, but on this, they are correct, we all know this is a major problem but right now they are the ones who are making a difference.
Anxious about their future on a hotter planet and angry at world leaders for failing to arrest the crisis, masses of young people poured into the streets on every continent for a day of global climate protests. Organisers estimated the turnout to be around four million in thousands of cities and towns worldwide. Whether this global action solved the problem that the protesters have identified: arresting greenhouse gas emissions to stave off a climate catastrophe, who knows at this point? It depends on how effectively climate advocates can turn the momentum of the protest marches into sustained political pressure on governments and companies that produce those emissions. But surly, one of the biggest environmental protests the world has ever seen cannot be ignored by those in positions of power.
There is growing scientific concern. A slew of recent reports has warned that oceans are heating and the poles melting faster than expected. In the USA and Europe, politicians are considering green deals and policies that would ramp up the transition to renewable energy but with increasing emissions it could be said that more focus is needed and quickly.
Young people have a distinctive and valuable perspective. They deserve to be heard. Teenagers can already join British political parties, most of which grant full membership rights to mid-teens. In Scotland, 16-year-olds can vote in some elections and this should be extended to all elections across the UK. The damage that is occurring now will affect them more than us, so they should have a say. There are sensible questions to be asked about the influence exerted by parents and other adults on children professing strong opinions. But we should respect and welcome efforts by children and teenagers to make their voices heard and influence decision-making. After all, they will be living with the consequences for far longer than the rest of us. The accelerating climate crisis, with figures from the UK Met Office suggesting that 1.5C of warming could be reached in as little as five years, shows it is the time to demand tougher action to avert disaster.
There have been suggestions that someone older had put them up to it. The Flemish environment minister, Joke Schauvliege, took the stance that the recent school strikes across Belgium were a “set-up and that security services knew who was really “behind this movement”. However, the Belgian security services issued a rare denial and Ms Schauvliege resigned her position.
Greta Thunberg was a lonely figure, a painfully introverted, slightly built teenage girl, when she started a school strike for the climate outside the Swedish parliament building in Stockholm in 2018. Her parents tried to dissuade her and her classmates declined to join her. Pity and bemusement were expressed by passers-by at the sight of a 15-year-old sitting on the cobblestones with a hand-painted banner. Now the picture could not be more different. The pig-tailed teenager is feted across the world as a model of determination, inspiration, and positive action. As a climate activist, her one-person strikes in Stockholm helped ignite a global movement and she is known as a figurehead for this vast and growing movement. A handful of fossil fuel lobbyists, politicians, and journalists have argued Thunberg is not what she seems, that she was propelled into prominence by environmental groups and sustainable-business interests. The entrepreneur who first tweeted about the climate strike, Ingmar Rentzhog, used Thunberg’s name to raise investment for his company but this was done without her permission. She has now cut all links with the company and has since vowed never to be associated with commercial interests. She has also been withering about leaders in the USA, UK, and Australia who either ignore the strikers or admonish them for skipping classes.
Greta says “They are desperately trying to change the subject whenever the school strikes come up. They know they can’t win this fight because they haven’t done anything”
Such blunt talk has found a broad audience among people jaded by empty promises and eager to find a climate leader willing to ramp up ambition. Greta Thunberg is brutally honest and for this some people consider this a threat.
She has told demonstrators “If no one else will take action, then we will”
I personally think we should listen to our children on this one. There is an old Yorkshire saying “Out of the mouths of Babes”, which roughly means sometimes children have some clever ideas and know and see more clearly than adults. So, I will leave you with this thought!