Do you remember Greta Thunberg, the teenager who began a one-woman protest: SKOLSTREJK FÖR KLIMATET (School Strike for Climate) outside of the Swedish Parliament? Overnight, she had made climate change a topic of that country’s daily conversation and achieved international recognition. Greta and her father, Svante Thunberg, attended this year’s COP in Poland. At Katowice, she was the young face every journalist wants to interview, so I went to listen to what the young woman had to say.
“The media need to put the climate crisis on every headline, on every front page.” — Greta Thunberg
Her dad explained how everything started: A couple of years ago, “Greta started to feel ill, she stopped eating, stopped talking and fell into depression.” She was concerned and upset about climate change. “We realised we were a big part of the problem, in fact we were the problem,” Svante continues. “She told us that we had to change, she showed us statistics.” And so they did. The family went from a life full of travels to adopting a vegan and more sustainable way of life, without flights!
Greta directs her anger towards politicians. When it comes to climate change, “everyone was saying one thing but doing the exact same opposite everytime,” she explained. Meanwhile, emissions continue to grow. That’s how she started her protest in front of the Swedish Parliament.
Since then, her direct confrontation with Swedish politicians has inspired students in hundreds of schools both in Sweden and around the world to stage similar actions under the hashtag #ClimateStrike.
“People don’t know that we are in this emerging situation,” explains Greta in Katowice. “Or they don’t know the changes require to stop it (climate change). I have met politicians and journalists that don’t know a single thing about the climate crisis, they don’t know the basic facts,” Greta condemns.
On her Twitter account, the young woman describes herself as a “15 year old climate activist with Asperger’s.” Despite her young age and the complexity of questions she was asked in Katowice (“how do we communicate better to the public?”), Greta remained eloquent, clear and determined on delivering her message: “The media need to put the climate crisis on every headline, on every front page.”
Asked about what she’s going do next, Greta answers: “I’m going to continue to sit in front of the Swedish Parliament every Friday until Sweden is aligned with the Paris Agreement. Then what happens happens.”
Here is the entire speech the 15-year-old gave at the climate change conference in Katowice:
“For 25 years countless people have stood in front of the United Nations climate conferences, asking our nations leaders to stop the emissions. But, clearly this has not worked since the emissions just continue to rise.
So I will not ask them anything.
Instead I will ask the media to start treating the crisis as a crisis.
Instead I will ask the people around the world to realize that our political leaders have failed us.
Because we are facing an existential threat and there is no time to continue down this road of madness.
Rich countries like Sweden need to start reducing emissions by at least 15% every year to reach the 2 degree warming target. You would think the media and everyone of our leaders would be talking about nothing else — but no one ever even mentions it.
Nor does hardly anyone ever talk about that we are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction, with up to 200 species going extinct every single day.
Furthermore does no one ever speak about the aspect of equity clearly stated everywhere in the Paris Agreement, which is absolutely necessary to make it work on a global scale. That means that rich countries like mine need to get down to zero emissions, within 6–12 years with today’s emission speed, so that people in poorer countries can heighten their standard of living by building some of the infrastructure that we have already built. Such as hospitals, electricity and clean drinking water.
Because how can we expect countries like India, Colombia or Nigeria to care about the climate crisis if we, who already have everything, don’t care even a second about our actual commitments to the Paris Agreement?
So when school started in August this year I sat myself down on the ground outside the Swedish parliament. I striked school for the climate.
Some people say that I should be in school instead. Some people say that I should study to become a climate scientist so that I can “solve the climate crisis”. But the climate crisis has already been solved. We already have all the facts and solutions.
And why should I be studying for a future that soon may be no more, when no one is doing anything to save that future? And what is the point of learning facts when the most important facts clearly means nothing to our society?
Today we use 100 million barrels of oil every single day. There are no politics to change that. There are no rules to keep that oil in the ground.
So we can’t save the world by playing by the rules. Because the rules have to be changed.
So we have not come here to beg the world leaders to care for our future. They have ignored us in the past and they will ignore us again.
We have come here to let them know that change is coming whether they like it or not. The people will rise to the challenge. And since our leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago.”