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How Greta Thunberg Is Busting Climate Indifference, one Protest At A Time

How Greta Thunberg Is Busting Climate Indifference, one Protest At A Time
The 17 year old has been named the youngest ever TIME Person of The Year for 2019, besides being nominated for Nobel Peace Prize for the second consecutive year. Shruti Sadhual and Srishti Tiku write about why the special young lady has suddenly become the poster girl for the global climate movement.

If you think about it, there’s an oft-portrayed scene in movies and drama series where a car zooms past a person with black smoke frothing out of the tail pipe. Engulfed in smoke, this person then, retaliates in agitation, and a feud begins. While these scenes are usually comic, this analogy well explains the relation between man and nature: man callously polluting the environment, and the earth unfurling its fury in the form of natural disasters. Flash floods, heat waves, forest fires, global warming, melting glaciers, mutating pathogens – you name them, and you will notice how they surround us.

Since the time we grasped the meaning of resource consevartion, we have been taught to be mindful of energy and natural resources – turn off water taps when not in use, reduce, reuse and recycle as many products as we can, and respect nature for the bounties it has to offer. But, really, how many of us actually continue with this practice with time? Not many of us, we may be certain. And that’s probably why we’re now standing at a point where, if we don’t exercise global corrective measures, literally turning over new leaves, we may potentially be heading towards the 6th mass extinction sooner than predicted. Perhaps this potential threat to our very existence is what compelled 17-year old Greta Thunberg to come forward and take responsibility by addressing the grim situation through strikes and mass protests.

WHO IS GRETA THUNBERG?

Greta is a Swedish climate activist who started advocating the cause of climate change at a very young age. Using climate strikes and activist movements,  she took a stand to express her concern regarding the current global climatic conditions, calling attention to a cause that goes largely unnoticed by most of us, as we go through life in our elusive search for ‘growth’, scarcely analysing the impact our ambitions for ‘economic development’ have on the climate and our resources.

At 15, Greta spoke in front of the Swedish Parliament and launched a vehement protest to battle climate change, demanding reduction in carbon emissions in accordance with the Paris Agreement, and she protested by sitting outside the Riksdag every day for three weeks during school hours with the sign Skolstrejk för klimatet (or, school strike for climate)”. Later she started her own movement “School Strike for Climate” (also known as Fridays for Future, Youth for Climate, and Youth Strike 4 Climate) on August 2018, all by herself. Fridays for Future, is an international movement of school students who take time off from class on Fridays to participate in demonstrations to demand action from political leaders to prevent climate change and for the fossil fuel industry to transition to renewable energy. She has been able to mobilise an estimated 1.4 million students in 112 countries to join her cause. Her movement has gained ground in India as well, with students of different age groups from various schools across the country gathering on Fridays to demand emphatic action by the government.

Students protesting climate inaction by governments during one of the climate strikes. Image source: Atlas of the Future

SO HOW DID SOMEONE LIKE HER DECIDE TO DEVOTE HERSELF TO CLIMATE ACTION SO EARLY IN LIFE?

Greta’s inclination towards climate change and her sensitivity towards the cause began took root when she was just 8 years old. Determined to help, she first got the idea for a ‘Climate Strike’ when she heard about the school shootings in the United States in February 2018. It encouraged her to take action and lead by example for a cause that she strongly believed in. Greta practices what she preaches, by trying to minimize her own contribution to environmental damage. For instance, considering air travel is one of the most environmentally damaging activities, Greta doesn’t travel by plane, even though that has meant missing many key opportunities (including attending various international protests and discussion forums). For her participation in the World Economic Forum, she traveled to Davos after a 32-hour train journey, in contrast to many delegates and world leaders who arrived in individual private jets, contributin a massive carbon footprint to a forum which was meant to discuss climate conservation.

VOCALIZING THE PERENNIAL ECONOMIC GROWTH vs ENVIRONMENT DEBATE, ONE EMPHATIC SPEECH AT A TIME

This young activist has been candid and bold to call out the injustice that she perceives in the actions of world leaders and authority figures. While addressing one of the panel discussions, she made a statement “Some people, some companies, some decision makers in particular have known exactly what priceless values they have been sacrificing to continue making unimaginable amounts of money. I think many of you here today belong to that group of people.” She thus highlighted how the fear of losing money keeps many businesses from contributing significantly towards fighting the problem of climate change. At the UN Climate Action Summit in New York, her message to the world leaders was: “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!”

WELL DESERVED LAURELS AND APPLAUSE FOR THE SPIRIT SHE EMBODIES

Amongst her many laurels, she was named the Times magazine’s person of the year for 2019 and was also nominated for the Nobel Peace prize the same year. She has indeed become the face of climate change activism for the world. She has also been awarded the ‘Swedish Woman of the Year prize’, ‘International Children’s Peace Prize’ among others and has been on the Forbes list of The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women.  Greta also declined to accept a few awards so as to not violate her own principles. When nomintaed for Children’s Climate Prize, the electricity company Telge Energi’s prize for young people who promote sustainable development, she declined as it would require the finalists to fly to Stockholm.

In conversation with the former US President, Barack Obama. Image source: New Age

ROLE OF SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE WRITTEN WORD IN CARRYING GRETA’S VOICE TO HER AUDIENCE

Like most of us, Greta too avidly uses social media to spread awareness about the causes she believes in. She is active on social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and uses the forum to share her ideas and opinions. In a statement she originally posted on her Facebook page, Thunberg acknowledges that she is not a climate scientist: she is merely a messenger who is repeating what scientists have been communicating to the public for decades, so far without much success. She says “if everyone listened to the scientists and acknowledged the facts, then we could all go back to school.”#FridaysForFuture became a trending hash tag all across social media in a very short span of time, and continues to be a movement across the globe. Greta has decided to continue striking every Friday, until the Swedish policies provided a safe pathway well under 2-degree C, i.e. in line with the Paris agreement. Her writings have also been published by Penguin in a collection aptly titled ‘No One Is Too Small To Make A Difference’. This will soon be followed by the publication of her memoir, ‘Scenes From The Heart’.

Greta’s efforts are a call to the world to step up and take responsibility for our actions. Those at the helm of making decisions must be cognizant of the impact their decisions have on the environment and be mindful of the same. Her overarching message is that the small acts of every indivdual affect the environment in big ways. If we have created this situation, we alone can resolve it. Wise words, and hard to live by we believe. But then again, with young people like her blazing the path ahead, the battle does fill you with confidence and encourages you to be a part of it.

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