Let children rise up and speak

Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, greets 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg on September 21 during the Youth Climate Summit at the headquarters of the United Nations in New York City. Photo: CNS/Reuters

Let the children rise up and speak. That is what is now happening across the world and ever since that brave child Greta Thunberg, 16 years old, went on strike from school one Friday to sit in front of the parliament house in Sweden with her sign board calling for students to strike for the climate. Millions of people have joined her protest against the do- little or nothing governments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are dramatically and dangerously changing the world’s climate.

Last September 20, Greta led the biggest movement of climate activists that the planet has ever seen. Amazingly, millions of children and young people across the globe rose up and marched in towns and cities to protest and demand governments to take the political action to curb the rise in global temperatures. It was the single biggest march in history and an estimated four million people took to the streets in 161 countries to raise their voice and be heard. 

Greta is a leading figure in this new movement by children and young people from kindergarten to college that have no vote but have their feet, placards and voice to shout and sing and raise a ruckus to get the world’s attention to the coming disaster that is descending on the planet if we don’t stop the temperature rising above 1.5 degrees Celsius.

She is an inspiration for millions of children and young people around the world and, as they are the next generation, that will be most negatively affected by the disaster to the environment. They will struggle to survive in a world without the plants and flowers and butterflies, bees, animals and birds. The crops will diminish and floods and droughts will continue unabated and food prices will go up and be unavailable in many poor countries. Hunger and starvation is likely. There will be wars over water and arable land as the population continues to grow in developing countries. There will be an increase in displaced people and greater migration will be the result.

In her remarkable speech during the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York last week, Greta made a powerful speech filled with emotion, anger, challenge and the harsh truth. “How dare you! You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words,” she said.

The summit highlights the urgent need for the governments around the world to do more to meet the Paris agreement standards to reduce emissions and hold global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius but CO2 has actually increased by 20 per cent in the past two years. So the goals and standards set in Paris will not be met. 

The action by Greta and the millions of youth around the world is what the young people can do to wake up governments and push them to act and take political risks to curb the release of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere.

“For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you are doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight,” she said.

“The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say we will never forgive you. We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line. The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not,” she said.

Yes, change is coming but not the positive kind that we all wish for and need if we will have a more sustainable world and we can all live in peace. But it is a hard road into the hearts and minds of the climate skeptics who believe that it is all fake news and a gimmick by fanatical tree-hugging activists or scientists paid by the corporations behind wind turbines and solar panels out to beat the oil industry and grab the market. 

Whatever anyone says, the teenager is focused on the one important thing that is affecting our world and is inspiring millions of young people to act in combating the rise in global temperatures. Only months ago, she was a lonely, apparently eccentric girl, sitting outside Swedish parliament with a protest poster calling for climate action. Today she has addressed the body of world leaders of the United Nations and has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

In general, the politicians in the General Assembly of the United Nations sat there with stony faces, unmoved and uncaring by the most part. That is the nature of corrupt political leaders. They abuse their power to benefit themselves. If it is corruption by selling fossil fuels or being a part of the industry, so be it. They will support the money-making business to get contributions for reelection and become rich and secure their personal dynasty in power. These are the politicians who protect their investments and do not care about the impact of the modern industrial complex that is using coal-fired plants to power their polluting and climate-destroying industry. Never mind the hundreds of thousands who suffer heart disease, lung cancer and respiratory diseases like asthma and emphysema as a consequence of the poisonous toxic fumes that they have to breath.

Greta Thunberg has made a huge impact on the world stage, a 16 year old from a small town in Sweden who stood up and cried out in silent protest and millions followed. The power of one is indeed remarkable. Yet we are all one and if we stand up and speak out, we will be heard by many and many more will join us in heart and mind and they too will act and do good to make the world a clean, safe place where hopefully greater justice and equality will reign. We stand with the youth who have the courage and determination to challenge and change the world.

Father Shay Cullen
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