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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim, Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

Playing follow the (youth) leader


How Greta Thunberg inspires climate change activism

If you name a recent political movement, chances are it’s been led by young people.

In 2014, Malala Yousafzai became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for her resistance against the Taliban; she demanded that all girls should receive an education.

In 2018, students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School revamped the fight for gun reform and constructed one of the biggest rallies for gun control in the United States. Twelve-year-old Naomi Wadler participated in the event by speaking about intersectionality within gun violence, bringing to light how news stories of young black girls impacted by the epidemic are not expressed through headlines like those of their white counterparts.

The most recent figure in youth activism, but certainly not unfamiliar to the media, is 16-year-old Swedish environmentalist Greta Thunberg. Last year, Thunberg began taking action in the fight for climate change by skipping school and protesting outside of the Swedish parliament.

Her protests became known as “Fridays for Future,” and they have inspired young people around the world to take part and urge their governments to address the climate crisis.

On Sept. 20, thousands of young people participated in what was one of the biggest climate strikes ever seen. Thunberg explains, “The symbolism of the climate strike is that if you adults don’t give a damn about my future, I won’t either.”

Thunberg is also receiving much attention from her Aug. 28 arrival in New York City after a 15 day trip across the Atlantic Ocean on an emissions free sailboat. There, she was greeted enthusiastically by young activists anticipating her arrival at United Nations Climate Action Summit. Moreover, on Sept. 23, Thunberg gave another powerful speech to the United Nations receiving global attention.

For too long, young people have been told that they are not wise enough, not old enough or not informed enough to have a valuable impact, particularly when it comes to advocacy.

Even Thunberg has received condemnation for her outspoken leadership: being told to stay in school and become a scientist so that she can solve the problem, to which she eloquently responds, “Why should I be studying for a future that soon will be no more when no one is doing anything whatsoever to save that future?”

Thunberg has paved the way for the youth in this fight, as our young people are doing more than our elected officials, showing that passion and change are not hindered by age. The young activists in the U.S. are critical to this country’s democracy, as well as to the global movement for climate justice.

ILLUSTRATION: Anissa Wilson ’20

We need to take action by demanding that our voices are incorporated into our government’s legislative process. We must vote for politicians whose political agenda makes tackling climate change a priority.

The current elected officials do not take counsel from the people who are going to be faced with the direct consequences of climate change. The Global Climate Strike is a huge step in the process of demanding action and vocalizing the youth’s voices.

Older generations had fears unique to their time, like Y2K, the “Red Scare” and so forth. One thing at the top of my list of fears is the fact that the planet is becoming uninhabitable in my lifetime.

This fear is unique to my time and it’s continually acknowledged by our politicians, yet their promise for change is never followed through. This is why young people are leading so many movements: we are tired of watching people fail us, over and over.

Temperatures are getting hotter. Sea levels are rising. Storms are stronger and more frequent. Species are going extinct, and people are dying. We’ve seen the science. We’ve seen the graphs, the two degrees. We’ve heard the warnings.

We see posts on social media, asking to be shared in order to raise awareness. We are aware because we have to be. What we need is action before it’s too late.

All these facts are indicative of one thing—our future is at stake. We must fix the errors that past generations did not fix. We need to hold our leaders accountable.

As influential as Thunberg is for the global climate movement, she emphasizes that this movement is not for her.

She told a congressional subcommittee, “I don’t want you to listen to me. I want you to listen to the scientists.” Thunberg is simply modeling what she wants us all to do: to take action and listen to the facts. We cannot rely on hope, for hope can only come as a result of action.

We have no choice but to act. It is our responsibility to undo the destruction we’ve caused to our planet, because if we don’t take serious action now, it will no longer just be a threat to our future, but one to our current existence. In the words of Thunberg, “Once we start to act, hope is everywhere.”

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