In this series of articles, we’ll be casting the spotlight upon a number of young people around the world who are a true cause for inspiration.
These individuals are famous for a number of different reasons, but one consistency is that, despite their relative lack of years, they have stamped their mark upon issues that matter the most to them; turning them into global icons.
We can all learn a great deal from these individuals but as young people, we should look up to them not only in admiration for their work, but to feel empowered to say, “I can be like them”.
In this, the second piece of the series, we shine the empowering spotlight on… Greta Thunberg
|IN THE SPOTLIGHT|
Name – Greta Thunberg
Ages – 16
Nationality – Swedish
Cause for Inspiration – Environmental activist
Greta Thunberg was born in Stockholm in January 2003. She was 8 years old when she first heard about Climate Change and could not understand why nothing was being done to reverse it.
She spent two years challenging her parents to improve their family’s carbon footprint by becoming vegan and giving up flying. Eventually leading her mother Malena Ernman to give up her career as an international opera singer. This story is recounted in the book their family published in August 2018; ‘Scenes from the Heart’.
Greta Thunberg was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and today sees it as a gift that has helped her tackle todays ‘existential crisis’, enabling her to see things clearly:
“If the emissions have to stop, then we must stop the emissions. To me that is black or white. There are no grey areas when it comes to survival. Either we go an as a civilisation or we don’t.”
In August 2018, Greta Thunberg (at the beginning of ninth grade) decided not to attend school after Sweden’s hottest summer in 252 years. She instead went and sat outside the Swedish Parliament in protest with a simple sign reading Skolstrejk fӧr klimatet (school strike for the climate) and handed out leaflets explaining to passers by what she was doing and why.
From this solitary protest Greta Thunberg soon gained international attention. Posts on Instagram and Twitter began to circulate with photographers showing up to her strikes wanting to spread the word. Young people around the world began to follow her lead and strike themselves. From this, Fridays For Future movement was born, whereby school children around the world refuse to attend school in support for tackling the Climate Crisis. Today this has involved over 1 million school children.
Having gone viral during these strikes Greta Thunberg was invited to give speeches at a number of events enabling her to voice her concerns about today’s global inaction to climate change. The powerful messages she delivers are based around the following ideas:
That we are facing an existential crisis caused by climate change that will lead to the end of civilisation as we know it.
That the current generation are responsible for the climate crisis.
That everyone needs to ‘wake up and change’ in order to help solve the crisis. That there shouldn’t be hope until everyone has started to act.
That Politicians and people in power need to start listening to the scientists. Scientists who for decades have been warning us of the effects of climate change. According to the IPCC we are less than 12 years away from doing irreversible damage to our environment.
In October 2018, Greta Thunberg addressed the ‘Declaration of Rebellion’ organised by the Extinction Rebellion (a socio-political activist group that insists the UK government takes action against the climate crisis through civil disobedience and nonviolent resistance). Opposite the Houses of Parliament she proclaimed “We can’t save the world by playing by the rules. Because the rules have to be changed.”
Her blunt and graphic analogies have helped her gain momentum across Europe. She went on to deliver speeches in Poland, Davos, Brussels, Berlin and Strasbourg. Meeting with a wide range of UN leaders and politicians. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, January 2019, Greta laid out all the facts finishing with one of her most powerful metaphors:
“Adults keep saying: ‘We owe it to the young people to give them hope.’
But I don’t want your hope.
I don’t want you to be hopeful.
I want you to panic.
I want you to feel what I feel everyday.
And then I want you to act.
I want you to act as you would in a crisis.
I want you to act as if your house is on fire.
Because it is”
Greta’s strikes and compelling speeches have earnt her a lot of global recognition. On International Women’s Day 2019 Greta was announced as the most important woman of the year in Sweden. In March, a handful of members from the Swedish and Norwegian Parliaments nominated Greta as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize by arguing that global warming will be the cause of wars, conflicts and refugees. If she is successful later this year she will become the youngest recipient ever.
Time magazine named Greta Thunberg one of the 100 most influential people of 2019 back in April. This list goes on and throughout the summer of 2019 Greta Thunberg has been honoured across Europe. Finally, in September this year, she received Amnesty International’s most prestigious award known as the Ambassador of Conscience Award, for her environmental activism and the Friday’s For Future Movement.
Like many other activists before her, Greta Thunberg has also had to face a lot of criticism. Politicians and leaders have argued that she is being manipulated and ‘fed’ information in order to make a profit. That her speeches are too well written for people ‘someone of her age’. Yet her willpower has never let these critiques affect her. In a facebook passage posted back in February she aims to set straight any rumours that circulate about her.
“I am not part of any organisation…I am absolutely independent and I only represent myself. And I do what I do completely for free.”
She is clear that she has never received any money or any promise of being paid in the future. Her parents help to fund her travel costs, she writes her own speeches, only approaching scientists to ensure everything she delivers is 100% factually correct.
In August of this year Greta Thunberg began a transatlantic voyage from Plymouth, UK, to New York, US. She made the 15 day voyage in a carbon neutral racing yacht, equipped with solar panels and underwater turbines, in order to attend the UN Climate Action Summit in New York and the COP25 Climate Change Conference in Santiago.
Arriving the week before the UN Climate Summit, on Friday September 20th 2019 Greta Thunberg inspired a Global Climate Strike. The largest to date starting with demonstrations in New Zealand and Australia and spreading with the daylight across the globe finally reaching her in New York City. It is estimated that over 4 million people took part in at least 163 countries.
Following the biggest climate strike in history Greta gave one of her most passionate speeches to date. Addressing UN Leaders who had failed to act she said “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words” but also warned them: “the eyes of all future generations are upon you” and that change is coming.
Inspiration In Your World…
As well as sharing the stories of these inspiring young people, this series also intends to challenge you, the reader, to think how can we take Greta’s example into our own lives?
- We can stand up for causes we believe in, the title of her book says it all No one is too small to make a difference.
- Acknowledge that local changes can have global impacts; for tips on how to make adjustments to your everyday life take a look at this:
- Use our voices to be heard, age doesn’t matter. Share content on social media to help spread the word!
- Become a beacon for the young of Nepal; inspire those around you to join your cause
To find out more about Greta, her story and how continues to speak up about the Climate Crisis, take a look at the following:
No One Is Too Small To Make A Difference – A collection of eleven on Greta’s Speeches
Scenes from the Heart – The family story of Great, her parents and her sister Beata.
Fridays For Future: https://www.fridaysforfuture.org/ for update information about how to get involved. #fridaysforfuture
UN Climate Action Summit, September 2019:
Also in this series:
Claire Faulkner, UK
I’m in Nepal for 3 months on a career break, back in the UK, I worked as a Travel Consultant. I have a degree in Human Geography from Newcastle University. I love to travel (both in the UK and around the World)! My other hobbies include Running, Sports and the Outdoors.