PARIS: Young Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg is aiming for perhaps the impossible -- to convince governments and industry to work collectively toward halting global warming before the evolving crisis causes untold harm to the planet and to humanity.
Highlighting what's at stake, the 16-year-old Thunberg addressed the French Parliament Tuesday, July 6, two days before the local temperature hit 108 F, a record breaker.
“They said that we children, we exaggerate, that we are alarmists. To respond to that, I invite you to read the last IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report. You will find all of our ‘opinions’ there,” Thunberg said in remarks to French MPs some of who derisively called her an “apocalyptic guru” and a “prophetess in shorts."
This condescension is perhaps the cost of being a messenger of unwanted news, thus Annahar’s NAYA section nominated Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg as Woman of the Month for August based on her bravery in speaking truth to power while still being in high school.
“Some people have chosen to not come to this meeting today, some people have chosen to not listen to us. It doesn’t matter, we’re only children so you don’t have to listen to us. However, you have to listen to the scientists and that’s all we’re asking,” said Thunberg in added remarks.
Last year, the teen began making headlines and educating her elders by publicly speaking about the increasingly rapid crisis of climate change, which is and will affect most of the world’s population.
The self-effacing Thunberg began her activism in August 2018 with a one-girl school strike held outside the Swedish Parliament that has gone on to involve teens and adults on a global scale.
The movement has since become known as “Friday’s for Future.”
One teacher who supports her said: "Greta is a troublemaker, (and) she is ignoring adults. But we are heading full speed for a catastrophe, and in this situation the only reasonable thing is to be unreasonable."
From her modest beginnings outside the Swedish Parliament, in the last year she has spoken at climate rallies in Stockholm, Helsinki, Brussels, and London.
Thunberg has no formal organization, declines to take any fee for speaking, and does not portray herself as a leader of the climate change movement. Also she has Asperger’s Syndrome which instead of viewing it as a liability, Thunberg notes it’s what allows her to see the world in such “black and white” terms.
Climate activism, amid its struggles to make change, has a number of celebrity, political, and charismatic persons involved. But no one has galvanized the cause in the past more than this teenager with Aspergers, Greta Thunberg who approaches the problem with heart and instinct.
In December she attended the United Nations COP24 in Katowice, Poland, where she addressed the Secretary-General and made a plenary speech that went viral and was shared many million times around the globe. In January 2019 she was invited to the World Economic Forum in Davos where her speeches again made a worldwide impact.
“Some say we should not engage in activism. Instead we should leave everything to our politicians and just vote for a change instead. But what do we do when there is no political will? What do we do when the politics needed are nowhere in sight?" She said at Davos. “Here in Davos – just like everywhere else – everyone is talking about money. It seems money and growth are our only main concerns.”
Thunberg tries to live a low-carbon life. Therefore she is vegan, and she doesn't fly. She has been named as one of the world’s most influential teens by TIME Magazine.
Of her very first protest, Thunberg wrote in an Op-Ed for British newspaper The Guardian:
“When school started in August (2018) this year, I decided enough was enough. Sweden had just experienced its hottest summer ever. The election was coming up. No one was talking about climate change as an actual consequence of our way of life.
“So I decided to walk out of school and sit on the ground outside the Swedish Parliament to demand our politicians treat climate change for what it is: the biggest issue we have ever faced.”
Since that pivotal day, the youth climate activists’ movement has grown exponentially. On 15 March 2019, an estimated 1.4 million students in 112 countries around the world joined her call in striking and protesting. A similar event involving students from 125 countries took place on 24 May 2019.
On the other side is not so much climate deniers - though they are present in force among the global dialogue as well - is a world caught up in the day to day concerns of economic growth, nation state competition, corporate stock value and the cost of energy.
Corporate and government officials may be persons of good faith in wanting to solve the problem, but their more immediate concerns are the company bottom line or an electorate that is fully employed and provided with basic social services. Also the common perception it that the problem is a generation away, while increasing evidence suggest the crisis is right now and picking up speed.
But Thunberg also has more than her share of outright detractors, some rather powerful, such as OPEC. In July, on behalf of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, secretary general Mohammed Barkindo called her and similar young climate activists as the “greatest threat” to the fossil fuel industry.
Inspired by Thunberg, a number of wealthy philanthropists from the United States have donated almost half a million pounds to support Extinction Rebellion (which Thunberg endorses) and for establishing what has become known as the Climate Emergency Fund.
Recently, Penguin Books published “No One is Too Small to Make a Difference," a collection of Greta Thunberg’s speeches thus far.
To the rich and powerful, the politically influential, celebrities, policymakers, and to other activists gathered at Davos, she noted:
“I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.”
Welcome to “Naya,” the newest addition to Annahar’s coverage. This section aims at fortifying Lebanese women’s voices by highlighting their talents, challenges, innovations, and women’s empowerment. We will also be reporting on the world of work, family, style, health, and culture. Naya is devoted to women of all generations-Naya Editor, Sally Farhat: Sally.firstname.lastname@example.org
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