Greta Thunberg takes the world by storm

Hiya Islam | Published: 00:00, Mar 31,2019


On March 15, students from schools, colleges and universities of Barisal take part in a global student strike in the city to protest at the government inactions on climate change. — Star Mail photo

Climate change — despite being the greatest challenge humans have faced, it is not discussed as much as the latest trend or gossip. But are we doing enough, on our part, to help? Greta Thunberg, a Swedish school student, apparently, has done her part. Not only she has initiated a movement drawing international attention, but also hundreds of thousands of school students have joined her cause in over hundred major cities across the world, including Bangladesh, igniting the largest movement against climate change till date, writes Hiya Islam

I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I do. Every day. And want you to act. I want you to behave like our house is on fire. Because it is.’ — Greta Thunberg

WHEN Greta was eight years old, she had just learned about climate change. She said, ‘I remember when I was younger, and in school, our teachers showed us films of plastic in the ocean, starving polar bears and so on. I cried through all the movies. My classmates were concerned when they watched the film, but when it stopped, they started thinking about other things. I couldn’t do that. Those pictures were stuck in my head.’

The vast majority of us go about in our lives like her classmates do. Years later, her outlook on a greener, better future has grown fiercer than ever. Since countries and political leaders have turned a blind eye to the crisis our home, our planet is facing, this is exactly what we needed. But it is not enough considering the stature of the crisis, but again, this is all we have now.

Greta Ernman Thunberg, a 16-year-old student has inadvertently sparked the biggest climate movement in history. Recent heat waves and a record number of wildfires across Sweden finally convinced Greta to step out and take matters in her own hand. On August 20, 2018 with a placard saying ‘Skolstrejk för klimatet’ (school strike for the climate), she was determined to protest in front of the Swedish parliament building every day during school hours until the Swedish general elections in September 2018.

She was inspired by the high-school students in Parkland, Florida who led ‘March for Our Lives’ to protest at gun violence and bring amendments to the US gun laws following a massacre in their school campus on February 2018. On her first day, she was all alone but soon her efforts were recognised and thousands came forth to take part in the noble cause. After the elections, she reserved Fridays solely to continue the strike and bring the biggest change yet.

On March 15, 2019, students across the globe set out to protest in unison. Tens of thousands of students, in over 100 cities, took to the streets to demand for a future worth living for. Because, as children, they cannot save the world alone. But they can make their voices heard and awaken the careless adult minds in power to indeed save everyone’s future.

How much this movement can achieve is unresolved when Australian education minister, Rob Stokes has threatened to punish the participating students and teachers. When UK Prime Minster, Theresa May thinks these protests waste the planned lesson time and burden teachers, we surely have the wrong people ruling our countries. The lessons in question would ultimately be useless when wildfires go rampant and countries drown in water. These lessons, degrees and everything else would come down to nada.

The young climate activist has talked her parents out of consuming meat and flying on airplanes. Her mother, Malena Ernman, an acclaimed opera singer in Sweden has given up air travel. Her actor father, Svante Thunberg, has successfully converted himself into a vegetarian. He says, ‘Over the years, I ran out of arguments. She kept showing us documentaries, and we read books together. Before that, I really didn’t have a clue. I thought we had the climate issue sorted. She changed us and now she is changing a great many other people. There was no hint of this in her childhood. It’s unbelievable. If this can happen, anything can happen.’

At the age of eleven, Thunberg was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and selective mutism. Selective disorder is an anxiety disorder where an individual capable of speech cannot do so in certain circumstances. Yet, she has been nailing every speech till date.

Ever since the first school strike she’s been credited to initiate, she has spoken in a number of global forums. In November 2018 at the TEDxStockholm, she explained that she only speaks when it is deemed as necessary. And calling out on the world’s irresponsibility regarding climate change is ‘one of those times’. 

A month later, young Thunberg addressed the COP24 United Nations Climate Change Summit. ‘You say you love your children above all else, yet you are stealing their futures in front of their very eyes’, she said to the packed auditorium in Katowice.

And finally, this year on January, she gave an eye-opening speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Her messages were clear and concise — we have to act now. She concluded, ‘I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I do. Every day. And want you to act. I want you to behave like our house is on fire. Because it is.’

Scientists have warned that the impacts of climate change such as, extreme weather, ice melting are devastating already. Times are such that scientists have been saying that the sixth mass extinction is underway. And that we only have about twelve years of time left in hand to undo the damage humans have made by sacrificing priceless resources to gain tonnes of money.

A decade will pass by in a blink. The generation of children under twenty will live to run from one place to another seeking refuge from catastrophes. We say we are building a brighter future. But are we? We are not reducing our emissions. We are killing and suffocating our marine life. We depend on plastic as much as we depend on oxygen. Landfills are filling out faster than ever. It’s getting late. But are you doing enough, on your part, to help?

Climate change is the biggest threat to all of us. What we are striving for now and have built in the past are all on the line. Despite being the greatest challenge humans have faced, it is not discussed as much as the latest trend or gossip. What goes around comes around. There is hope only if act together for once.

Hiya Islam is a student of BRAC University.




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