If you've been following the efforts to call attention to the urgency of the climate change problem worldwide, you are probably familiar with the Fridays for Future movement, inspired by the now 16-year-old student, Greta Thunberg. I have not been following the news and only discovered her today, when I happened upon not one but two programs on the German talk show hosted by Anne Will on German television, the first an interview (in English) with Greta, and the second (in German), a discussion the next day Anne Will holds with three German politicians, a physics professor and a German teenage Fridays for Future activist.
What Greta has pulled off - if you're not already familiar with this remarkable phenomenon - is convince kids in a number of countries to join her in a school strike, once a week, on Fridays, to call attention to the need for drastic action. That number has risen from a handful to one and a half million so far, in more than three thousand cities around the world. Don't let the clumsy English name for this group distract you from the fact that they're highly focused and intensely committed. "I want you to panic," Greta tells her audiences.
Three Norwegian legislators have nominated Greta for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Greta is a good example of how an individual activist can, without meaning to, draw attention away from the cause she is advocating by being such an interesting figure in her own right. And I'm aware that by making this blog entry about her and not about climate change, I'm part of that sabotage, if that's the right word.
I'm hoping it's not the right word, and in the end people will look past this kid with a cause and take the cause seriously. Use her, in other words, in the way she'd like to be used. The Anne Will program demonstrates why it's so easy to get disgusted with politicians. There is discussion about why Greta (and all her followers) are not in school instead of in the street, studying for careers in science where they can better address the challenges.
There is a ready answer to that question. "Because we don't need to prove there is a problem. The problem is well-known and fully-accepted by people who know the science. And the solutions are also there; we simply need the political will to have the necessary policies imposed by world governments." (I'm paraphrasing, not citing exactly.) Most importantly, they tell us, again paraphrasing, "We students are not interested in preparing for solutions by-and-by; we are calling for action right now. Immediately. This very minute."
Wolfgang Kubicki, the FDP politician dismissed Greta and the activists with a patronizing, "When I was your age I was protesting too." "We were protesting the use of nuclear energy," he tells people, missing the point that stopping an allegedly dangerous means of generating energy is not actually in the same category as stopping a proven catastrophe that is already upon us: the latest estimate of a point of no-return is assumed to be eleven years from now.
Another politician (the governor of Saxon-Anhalt) insists that we have the democratic means of working out problems, and that means living by the rules, one of which is kids are supposed to be in school.
From the Fridays for Future perspective, you can put that down as two classic examples of retrograde politicians, if you've been following the logic here. The third politician is on the kids' side. "These are not kids skipping school," he says. "These are kids who are out marching in the street because they've been the kind of students who learn things; they're simply demonstrating that they've learned their lessons well."
I won't belabor the point. I am not on top of the debates; I'm simply looking for uplifting stories in this day and age of endless bad news. And I found this Swedish teenager a total delight. Have a listen to the Anne Will interview, if you have the time.
I suspect we're going to be hearing a lot more about Greta in the coming weeks and months.
Here's the link again.
And here are three more of her appearances:
- TED Talk (TEDx Talk Stockholm) on January 28, 2019 - https://www.ted.com/talks/greta_thunberg_the_disarming_case_to_act_right_now_on_climate?language=en
- Speech addressing UN Climate Change Conference in Poland 2018 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFkQSGyeCWg
- Addressing Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission on climate change in Brussels this past February - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CWQPDsHJ0gc&ab_channel=ProductiehuisEU