Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/3/2019 (228 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
What a short half-year it’s been for the newest push in climate activism.
That’s roughly how long it’s been since Swedish teen Greta Thunberg went on strike from attending school last August, citing adults’ inaction on addressing climate change. The message that she gave out in leaflets during her three-week strike prior to Sweden’s general election in September was blunt: "I am doing this because you adults are sh****ng on my future."
Ms. Thunberg is far from the first activist to raise awareness about climate change, but for her it’s long been an interest. The 16-year-old, who has been diagnosed with ADHD and autism, told The New Yorker magazine that, like others with autism, she has a special interest; hers is climate change, and she began to be interested in it in third grade.
That determination has only become clearer over time. "I am doing this because nobody else is doing anything. It is my moral responsibility to do what I can," she told the Guardian. "I want the politicians to prioritize the climate question, focus on the climate and treat it like a crisis."
And it is a crisis. Last fall, the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change declared that we have barely more than a decade to cut greenhouse gas emissions and avoid a 1.5 C rise in global average temperature. That kind of rise could lead, they warn, to runaway global climate change and massive disruption for human civilization, if not its collapse.
Those who laughed off Thunberg’s "strike" — in fact, she brought her schoolbooks along with her — as mere teenage rebellion underestimated either the seriousness of climate change, or the determination many other young people felt to do something about their future.
She continued her protest on Fridays after the Swedish election. Ms. Thunberg also spoke at the United Nations COP24 conference in Katowice, Poland, in December. In a sharp rebuke to adults in general, and perhaps to those who felt she was naive, she said, "You are not mature enough to tell it like it is. You say you love your children above all else. And yet you’re stealing their future in front of their very eyes."
In cities around the world, other youths began striking against inaction on climate change. In December, 12-year-old Winnipegger Miyawata Stout was among those who took a page from Thunberg’s book. She organized 20 of her fellow students at École River Heights School to demonstrate outside MP Jim Carr’s office, lobbying for laws to protect the planet.
That wasn’t a one-off, either. Additional rallies have been organized by students in Winnipeg on the first Friday of every month.
Then on March 15, hundreds of students in Winnipeg joined tens of thousands of students in more than 100 countries to rally for action on climate change.
Adults may dismiss such actions as an excuse to get out of school (in fact, in a number of school divisions there were no classes that day), but that would be ignoring that these young people not only are looking to the future, but they will be voting soon themselves.
Political parties and governments that don’t have plans to address greenhouse-gas emissions and climate change might soon find themselves on the receiving end of a stern ballot-box rebuke. The question, then, for politicians, is "Are you listening?" — to the climatologists, and to these future voters?
Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board.