Greta Thunberg started out all alone, but she’s not alone anymore. In August 2018 the Swedish teenager stood alone outside her country’s parliament with her “Skolstrejk For Klimatet” (School Strike for Climate) poster, and she got some attention from fellow teenagers and eventually adults as well. Now she has lit a torch and millions of people around the world are ready to follow her.
As the father of kids who are also scared about the future of our planet and are inspired by Greta, I have listened to this young lady speak, and she has a wisdom far beyond her years. There is something about her demeanor and her direct approach that shows that she is serious about this and that no one should mess with her. It is particularly satisfying to see her speaking to the stuffed shirts in the U.S. Congress, and basically she is telling them off, in as polite a way as a possible. She told them, “Don’t invite us here to just tell us how inspiring we are without actually doing anything about it.” Though just 16 years old, it seemed in some ways that she was the only adult in the room.
Yesterday she spoke to a huge crowd in New York City’s Battery Park. The people in attendance kept shouting her name and, rather than bask in the glory of the moment, she spoke frankly to all. She said, “Our house is on fire; we will not just stand aside and watch.” Her words were met with cheers and thunderous applause.
Greta came to America in an unconventional way as well – on a sailboat – and has since taken the place by storm. They say looks are deceiving, and she seems unimposing and quiet at first, but once she begins speaking, she is like a lion roaring in the jungle forcing people to notice her.
It’s no surprise that my children and so many other kids are impressed with her and take notice of how she is making a difference. She is the voice of their generation, and she is saying honestly that adults have screwed this planet up for long enough. If adults won’t do anything, we will take the lead and get things done.
It is estimated that about 4 million people in 163 countries across the planet participated in yesterday’s rallies. So, what started as one young girl standing in front of an imposing parliament building has morphed into a worldwide phenomenon inspired by Greta. As she said at Battery Park yesterday, “This is what people power looks like.”
Now, there are those who are downplaying yesterday as nothing more than a stunt, and I’ve heard people saying, “She is just a kid!” since she came to New York on the boat. But they are missing the point – she is a kid, and she has the right to feel in danger and to worry about her future and the future of millions of other kids being in danger as well. Greta has given a voice to the voiceless; she has given a face to the invisible.
I remember being a kid during the Cold War and fearing a nuclear attack. My parents told me not to worry because they didn’t think it would ever happen, and in school we were told to hide under our desks during an attack. The black and yellow Fallout Shelter signs on my school walls did nothing to assuage my fears. I was scared – and many other kids were too – but adults just went about their business, so I understand how Greta and my kids and many other kids feel all too well.
All these years later, it is time that we adults take notice and do something, because Greta Thunberg is not going away, nor are the millions of people she has encouraged to speak out and call for change. Children are going to inherit this planet and they have a right to want it to be habitable and safe.
Greta will address the UN next week, and this will no doubt gain her more fans as she carries that torch onto the world stage. She has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and this forthcoming speech before the leaders of the world just might make her more than a contender for that honor.
As she ended her speech yesterday, Greta told the crowd, “This is only the beginning. Change is coming whether they like it or not,” and when I heard those words I couldn’t help but to believe her.