9.6.19 / Planet / Earth

Why Greta Thunberg Matters to AHL

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts

  • [Photo: United Nations Information Service Vienna]

  • Among the recent spate of environmental urgency cries by scientists, politicians, and media personalities, the voice of Greta Thunberg has stuck out. The 16-year old Swede has unwittingly become the face of a movement, beginning with her school strikes demanding climate action by the Swedish parliament to her 15 day carbon neutral transatlantic crossing from England to New York ending just a week ago.

    Thunberg’s voice echoes the rise in youth movements that are taking place around the world. Much like the most vocal survivors of the Parkland shooting who have become resonant gun control activists, Thunberg represents an impatience and intolerance to the old systems that ignore our new realities. It’s not a new concept; every generation has felt impassioned about reform, before yielding to apathetic responses, but few have had the visibility to attract global awareness and incite action as young people do now.

  • [Photo: campact]

  • What does it mean for Thunberg to band together students from around the world, to leave class and demand change? Or traveling on a sailboat across the Atlantic, to demonstrate the necessity of reducing emissions? Often times people scoff at the notion of making small changes—the problems we face are far too severe. Whether it’s a student standing outside the parliament alone, holding a sign, or it’s someone being conscious of the waste they’re producing in daily life, it can seem like a drop in the bucket relative to the problems at hand. But intentionality matters, and it’s what most people get so wrong about environmental change. These aren’t issues that can be left alone for scientists and industrialists to solve for us; action at the smallest levels add up. Even 16 year-olds understand that.

  • [Photo: campact]

  • Of course, cynicism so easily prevents that type of thinking, and so many of us have resigned ourselves to our fate, with the hope that someone will step in a everything will be fixed. Cynicism is also what young people lack, and while it’s easy to dismiss them as wide-eyed optimists lacking an understanding of the way our world works, they’re also the most willing to turn it into what it could be. People like Thunberg should be celebrated, because what she’s doing is what we’ve all wanted to do at some point in our lives. It’s what we still want to do, and even as these ineffective systems become more and more ingrained in us, Thunberg is a reminder that there’s still potential for change.

  • [Photo: appaloosa]