The Greta Effect(s)
In December of 2015, I flew into Paris from Vancouver for the United Nations COP21. I was there to support my company’s CEO who was presenting to the conference about decarbonization of commercial shipping. I had just finished a 10-day business trip but I came home, excitedly did some laundry and the next day flew to Paris (yes I bought carbon offsets).
I was excited for the future again. In my home country of Canada, we had just elected a new Prime Minister who was young, hip and in tune with the people and who had promised serious action on climate change. Justin Trudeau promised to be different from previous leaders, saying he was not influenced by big oil. President Obama was still in office in the United States and there seemed to be a optimism and hope for a healthy future for our children and grandchildren. COP21 became a pivotal moment where almost all nations in the world agreed to specific actions to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
Fast forward 4 years and we are still waiting for the change. Maybe voting in itself is not enough. Maybe we need a real leader to spur us all into action.
This week’s top story is about Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager who, by skipping school to protest outside the Swedish parliament starting when she was 15, has started a global movement of concerned citizens (mostly teenagers) who demand accountability from local and international organizations on climate change.
This movement, informally called School Strike for Climate or Fridays for Future, has gained momentum. During her recent trip to North America, as she traveled to COP25 in Santiago, Chile, millions of protesters joined the movement around the world.
On September 27 in Vancouver, where my kids and I participated, there were 100,000 people protesting on a Friday afternoon, bringing rush hour traffic to a dead stop. As Boomers raged from their idling SUVs, I remember an emotionally overwhelming feeling of pride, gratitude and hope as I stood and watched thousands of faces take over the downtown streets peacefully protesting for their future and making their unified voices heard. My own children somewhere among them.
Greta is now making her way back across the Atlantic by sailing vessel, headed toward Madrid. The venue for COP25 was moved there after civil unrest in Santiago and subsequent security concerns forced the organizers to reconsider the location. Truly a person driven by her values, Greta and her father sailed the Atlantic in winter rather than fly, demonstrating how difficult it really is to live a low carbon life in today’s society.
The vessel is now a day’s sail from the coast of Portugal where she will then travel to the conference and hopefully be given an opportunity to speak. Considering the conference starts today, she will likely miss the opening ceremony. But in my opinion, considering the attention she has gained for the problem, she will be the star of the show yet again.
I personally have been waiting for something like the Greta effect to occur for some time, even before Ms. Thunberg took a stand. The kids and teenagers of today have too much to lose. It is their future that is being squandered by wealthy people in positions of great power. It has become obvious that most people of my cohort (Gen X) and of the previous Baby Boom generation are more afraid of discomfort in the present than they are of ruining the planet for their grandkids in the future.
It is a case of generational greed pure and simple. Rather than take action, they hoard their money as if it will protect them from the uncertainty of the future, yet in so doing they continue to perpetuate the problem. I’ve tried to do the right thing in my chosen line of work and my personal life, but for years now I have wondered what it would take to get these kids off their butts and to make their voices heard. As Greta told the audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos, “the house is on fire” and finally people are starting to wake up to the acrid smell of smoke.
Her voice is being heard by more than children. Legislators are also taking notice. Just this week, ahead of COP25, the European Union Parliament approved a resolution declaring a climate emergency in Europe and globally (before 2016 this phrase did not even exist). They also request the EU Commission to ensure that all relevant legislative and budgetary proposals are fully aligned with the objective of limiting global warming to under 1.5 °C. This is huge because it affects so many countries and people and is yet another example of the Greta Effect.
I will be following the proceedings from Madrid (I wish I could be there) and I hope to hear yet another amazing speech by reluctant climate leader Greta Thunberg.
There is hope. The people are finally listening, governments are finally taking action, and for this, I thank the children.
How can you help? Unfortunately, speaking your mind on social media is not enough. Take real action; email your local political representatives. Not just those you might vote for, but all of them. Make sure your voice is heard loud and clear. Do an Ecosia search for the politicians competing for your vote and simply email or call them.
In other top happy eco news stories, how smart supermarkets can do away with excessive packaging, the radioactive wasteland that was the site of the Fukushima nuclear disaster is being reborn as a clean power hub, the biggest coal fired power plant in the US West was shut down, and a solar power company backed by Bill Gates achieves the breakthrough of ability to power the world’s most energy intense industrial processes meaning that we no longer must burn fossil fuels to make concrete or steel.
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