Greta Thunberg (16) has mobilized over seven million children across the world to strike, like her, for climate justice. Greta’s message to the world is simple: fine words about the climate are not enough. “Share my panic,” she says, and take action now.
Determination to make a difference When Greta first learned about climate change at about eight years old, she was shocked that adults didn’t seem to take the crisis seriously. She became depressed. She didn’t eat, go to school or speak for months. Her need to fight for the climate became her motivation. She made the decision never to fly, to eat meat or dairy, or to buy unnecessary new things: a “shop stop”. But Greta saw that she needed to use her voice to do more. Inspired by last year’s International Children’s Peace Prize winners, March for Our Lives, she sat down in front of Sweden’s parliament on August 20th 2018 with a home-made banner: skolstrejk för klimatet (school strike for climate). Her parents had tried to stop her. No other children had joined her. But she was determined to see it through and sat down, alone. She wrote on Twitter: “We children usually don’t do as you tell us to do, we do as you do. And if you adults don’t care about my future, neither do I. I will school strike for the climate until election day.” The media took an immediate interest, and Greta’s climate strike made the news.
Children and climate justice Environmental issues are human rights issues. A healthy environment is essential to the survival, well-being and development of children, and therefore a precondition for the realization of the rights of the child. At the same time, the fulfillment of children’s rights is a fundamental component of environmental protection. A child with sufficient access to justice can take her government to court for not doing enough to protect the environment that is essential to her survival.
Cities, countries and continents follow Greta’s school strike spread to other Swedish cities, to other European countries, and finally to other continents. Over seven million young people embraced Fridays for Future, striking for climate justice in places all over the world.
Walk the talk Greta doesn’t just talk about solutions, she lives them. In August 2019, Greta embarked on a journey to the United States to attend important climate conferences. Rather than board an airplane, she sailed for 14 days, eating freeze-dried food, not showering, and going to the bathroom in a bucket.
Greta shows that children are at the heart of the fight for a more sustainable future. Climate change is violating children’s rights to life, health and peace, and children are now taking action into their own hands. It’s time for the adults to listen and learn.