A Rising Voice in Climate Change Mitigation - The Story of Greta Thunberg
Diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) characterized by abnormalities in social interactions the odds were obviously stacked against Greta Thunberg. Nevertheless, she defied the odds and rose to become one of the leading voices in environmental activism today.
17-year-old Thunberg is a recipient of the prestigious Time person of the year award as well as the international children’s peace prize. In addition to the aforementioned, the Fritt Ord, Rachel Carson, Right Livelihood, Ambassadors of Conscience and many other awards and prizes adorns her trophy cabinet – if she has one.
However, the journey to stardom began in May 2018 when the young activist won a climate-change essay competition in a local newspaper, months later she began spending her school days outside the Swedish parliament ahead of the country’s election, to call for stronger action on climate change. She vowed to continue until the government met the carbon emissions target set out in 2015 by world leaders in Paris carrying a placard that read ‘School strike for the climate’. Her making a stand alone reminds one of a humming bird who had single handedly made efforts to quench a burning house with droplets of water from his beak.
Soon enough other students joined her and engaged in similar protests in their communities. Later they together organized a school climate strike under the flagship ‘Fridays for Future’.
As support for her cause grew, other strikes sprang up around the world, and the message spread with the hashtag #FridaysForFuture. By December 2018, over twenty thousand students around the world had joined her in countries including Australia, the UK, Belgium, the US and Japan.
However, the first challenge for Thunberg was to convince her own parent to lower the family's carbon footprint and overall impact on the environment by becoming vegan, upcycling, and giving up flying. Giving up flying in part meant her mother – an opera singer – had to give up her international career.
At first her parents weren't enthusiastic about her movement, and told her that she would have to do it without their help, they ultimately gave in, Thunberg credits her parents' eventual response and lifestyle changes with giving her hope and belief that she could make a difference. Because of her commitment to climate change she has received several invitations to speak about climate change.
She spoke at the just concluded World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the European Parliament and in front of lawmakers in Italy, France.
During the plenary session of the 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference, she gained the attention of the international community when she commented that the world leaders present were "not mature enough to tell it like is". At the January 2019 World Economic Forum, Thunberg gave a speech in which she declared: "Our house is on fire".
That same year (2019) Thunberg sailed across the Atlantic Ocean from England to the USA, preferring to travel in a 60-foot racing yacht equipped with solar panels and underwater turbines. The trip was announced as a carbon-neutral transatlantic crossing serving as a demonstration of her professed beliefs on the importance of reducing emissions.
Her appearance at a UN climate Action Summit in September, 2019 drew particular attention for her impassioned comments: “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words…We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money, and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”
That month millions of protesters marched in climate strikes in more than 163 countries.
In February 2019, 224 academics signed an open letter of support stating they were inspired by Thunberg's actions.
On his part, United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, endorsed the school strikes initiated by Thunberg, admitting that "My generation has failed to respond properly to the dramatic challenge of climate change. This is deeply felt by young people. No wonder they are angry." The UN secretary general added that his generation was "not winning the battle against climate change" and that it was up to the youth to "rescue the planet".
Thunberg has no doubt changed the narrative to climate change by inspiring a number of her peers with various politicians.
This phenomenon has been described as "The Greta effect".
While Thunberg has been credited with the paradigm shift on climate change, she was not without detractors as her message has not been well received by all, notably prominent conservative voices.
In September 2019, after her speech at the UN climate action summit, US President Donald Trump mockingly said she "seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future". In addition, Russia’s Vladimir Putin described her as a "kind but poorly informed teenager". While President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil notably called her a “brat”.
Similarly, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told the activist to go away and study economics before lecturing investors. His comments came after she called on world leaders to abandon fossil fuels.
There have also been claims that the Stockholm born teenager was a puppet of adults with a political agenda.
Nevertheless, amid the growing criticisms and hate, Greta Thunberg has so far shown restraint, resilience and doggedness.
Her moral clarity inspired young people across the world including me to the join in the fight.
Like Thunberg we all have a part to play and this has inspired me to volunteer at the Regional centre for expertise Minna (RCE MINNA) where over 5000 trees have been planted in 2 years with 70% survival rate. And also a Conservatory and Children's Park have been developed to all endangered tree species that are in Northern Nigeria.
It is the first and largest park in northern Nigeria with over 4 hectares of land which will feature many educative activities and initiatives.
The park proposes to house the major trees/ plant species endemic to our region with the ultimate aim of providing a systematic compilation of the entire flora common to northern Nigeria with their local names, common and medicinal values. It will serve as an avenue for children to connect with natural environment together with their parents, teachers and student researchers.
RCE also organizes a handful of projects like the green fingers club where we educate kids on climate change and also plant trees, milions of tons of plastic are on our streets, so we go out of the streets to clean and educate people on the need for recycling and the need to explore the use of renewable energy, to improve quality in our towns after all, It is possible to live sustainably if we try.
Thunberg is a reminder that the people in charge now will not be in charge forever.
Like Greta said;
"I want you to panic, I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to Act"
© AMRAH ALIYU
“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words…
We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money, and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”
" I want you to panic, I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to Act"
© 2020 Amrah Aliyu