Please heed the call

Greta Thunberg © Anders Hellberg

by Gail Picco (January 21, 2020)

No one is too small to make a difference by Greta Thunberg, Penguin UK, July 30, 2019, 80 pp., $7.45

When you see climate scientist, Greta Thunberg, on TV, it is striking how diminutive she is, a child really, one seemingly sent by Mother Nature herself to tell the world our time is practically up. A child with a roar of an ocean. Or a hurricane. 

Current president of the United States Donald Trump mocked Thunberg when she was honoured by Time magazine as 2019 person of the year. 

So ridiculous. Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!” he tweeted in December. He had previously taunted her after her September presentation to the United Nations in New York City. “She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!” he tweeted.

Both Trump and Thunberg spoke on the opening day of the World Economic Forum (#WEF) in Davos Switzerland on January 21st, Trump at 11am local time and Thunberg shortly after at a panel sponsored by the New York Times and the WEF. Concerns about the environment is a key topic at the conference.

According to the New York Times, “[Thunberg] and a group of young climate activists have called on private investors and governments to immediately halt exploration for fossil fuels, to stop funding their production, to end taxpayer subsidies for the industry and to fully divest their existing stakes in the sector”.

Trump didn’t mention climate change in his speech other than to disparage climate activists as “heirs of yesterday’s foolish fortune tellers.” 

“The line is drawn, the curse is cast,” Bob Dylan wrote in The times they are a-changing.

For Turnberg, Trump is part of the order that’s rapidly fadin.” Thunberg’s cohort is the future … the slow one now will later be fast.  If you’d like to read what the future thinks, you can order a copy of Thunberg’s speeches to keep in your back pocket. We could all use a daily reminder of how our children feel about the world we’re leaving them.

Thunberg was born in 2003 in Sweden.  Diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, she did not speak  or eat outside the confines of her own home for the three or four years before the climate crisis drove her to begin a student strike outside the Swedish Parliament building in 2018. The days of her sitting by herself outside the Parliament building has grown into a global movement of young people who are shaking adults by the shoulders. Smarten up. You’re robbing our lives, they’re saying.  She was 15 years old when she began the school strike.

Penguin Books has put together the text of Thunberg’s major speeches in a book No one is too small to make a difference.

“I have Asperger’s syndrome,” Thunberg said in a speech in Parliament Square, London on October 31, 2018, “and to me almost everything is black or white. I think in ways we autistic are the normal ones and the rest of the people are very strange.”

It’s the kind of book we can keep in our back pocket and look at every day to help us see the difference between right and wrong.  You can open No one is too small to make a difference to any page and find an epistle for the future,

“Today we use 100 million barrels of oil every day. There are no politics to change that. There are no rules to keep that oil in the ground. So, we can’t save the world by playing by the rules. Because the rules have to be changed.” (page 12)

Being a 16-year-old coming of age in a world where the future of the planet is at stake and the adults in the room don’t seem to be all that fussed can’t be easy. In every generation, young people must cope with the injustice and inequity that our world. But the extinction of our planet must be a truly terrible burden for our children to bear. They are truly the victims of our inability confront this crisis of extinction. 

Science New for Students reports that “children and teens are generally more likely to accept the scientific consensus — widespread agreement — about humanity’s role in climate change, … Many kids also worry about how the impacts of climate change are expected to only worsen … This can trigger feelings of anger, grief, resentment, fear, frustration and being overwhelmed.”

From page 51 of No one is too small to make a difference,

“Everyone and everything has to change. But the bigger your platform, the bigger your responsibility. The bigger your carbon footprint, the bigger your moral duty.  When I tell politicians to act now, the most common answer is that they can’t do anything drastic because it would be too unpopular with the voters. And they are right, of course, since most people are not even aware of why those changes are required. That’s why I keep telling you to unite behind the science. Make the best available science the heart of politics and democracy.”

Like Malala Yousafzai who nearly gave her life in the pursuit of girls’ education, Greta Thunberg is a world leader. Unlike many world leaders, she seems fearless.

Thunberg’s next book is a memoir Our House is on Fire: Scenes of a Family and a Planet in Crisis written jointly written with her mother, the opera singer Marlena Ernman, her sister Beata Erman, and her father Svante Thunberg coming in April 2020.

(Gail Picco is a charity strategist, author and writer and edits the CSP Book Blog.)

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