On August 20, Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg and three other teen activists had a 90-minute meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to press their demands for tougher action to curb climate change. Germany currently holds the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union.
Greta, the 17 year-old environmental activist, is back to school and back in action, and this is a good news for all of us. Her courage and dedication are impressive. The 2oth marked the second anniversary of the “Fridays for Future” school strikes she began in 2018, and youth are now taking part in protests in over 150 countries. She has been motivating teenagers to educate their parents, asking them to go to the streets and make the adults face their own contradictions and lack of courage. Thunberg understands very well that the problem is with the White-West: the United States, with just over 4% of the world’s population, is responsible for almost a third of the excess carbon dioxide that is heating the planet. The 28 countries of the European Union, taken as a group, come in just behind the United States in historical emissions.
Greta is one of the most humanist figures in the public eye. She acts with nonviolence, she organizes at the base, and she is very strategic. In September 2019, her speech at the United Nations earned enthusiastic praise from climate researchers, with many saying that in just a few years the 16-year-old had raised awareness of climate science and galvanized public support way beyond what they had been able to do in decades.
“I thought it was the most powerful speech I’ve ever seen,” said Sally Benson, co-director of the Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford University. “She has been a catalytic leader,” Benson continued. “We’re seeing more grassroots action, and she’s creating a movement where young people are pushing communities, cities, states and corporations and saying, ‘we’re not going to wait.’”
Greta knows how to push buttons. Politicians have bullied, insulted, and degraded her more forcefully than anyone did against those who created nuclear weapons. The insults are coming from the same people who got the U.S. to withdraw from the Paris agreement.
We can only hope that Greta, along with this new generation of teenagers, will have the capacity to force the White-West to become a culture at harmony with nature: willing to share, replacing competition with cooperation, and placing the wellbeing of global humanity as a priority.