“You have stolen my dreams.”
Those words were uttered by 16-year-old Swedish student and Climate activist Greta Thunberg on Monday, Sept. 23 in front of the U.N. General Assembly.
She scolded them in her speech, calling out countries for their focus on economic prosperity while, as she put it, “the house is on fire.”
The truth of the matter is, while Thunberg is being championed by Time Magazine as the leader of the future, we truly don’t have the time to waste.
Previous generations mortgaged our future for their yesterday, and I frankly don’t have enough command of the English language to explain how selfish and vile that is.
Our generation and the ones behind can’t plan our long-term futures because of the looming effects of climate change.
We have the knowledge now that by the end of the century, the world that our children and their children will grow up in will look vastly different.
There will be more destabilization, more climate refugees, wars over resources.
Why? As the Los Angeles Times reported on Oct. 2015, in the 1970s, corporations like ExxonMobile took out advertising in major newspapers across America in a disinformation campaign.
Their teams of scientists knew in 1974 that sea levels could rise and weather would become more extreme.
They knowingly spread lies to assuage the public, telling them everything was fine, that their giant V-8 engine cars were representative of freedom, not destroying the planet under their feet.
In 2019, with the climate change report from the U.N, it should not take the blunt remarks of a 16-year-old to tell the politicians that the well-being of citizens comes before talk of economic growth.
She should be commended for speaking her truth, but it is a sad commentary on the state of affairs in political affairs all around the world.
As my grandfather once said, this is what happens when hubris triumphs over truth.
We live in a world where those who were paid to represent us are more worried about their finances and being reelected rather than doing the right thing.
We have a president, who instead of having a possible introspection on what this country could do better (agreeing to uphold the U.S.’s end of the bargain in Paris Accords for instance), he is mocking her openly on Twitter.
Instead of investing in energy solutions, making mass transportation a viable, affordable option, we revert to our base tendencies, individualism wrapped in entitlement with little regard for our fellow man.
The truth is, we can fix it. First, we need a government and citizens to wholly believe that there is a problem.
No one ever deserves to have their future stripped from them before they even get a chance to start.
But we have done that by repealing EPA regulations from the Obama Presidency, loosening the regulations of the Clean Air Act of 1963 so that companies can run roughshod in the name of profits.
Thunberg is a hero, a bold woman who is selfless and was willing to go out of her comfort zone to remind world leaders of what’s really important.
When I watched her speech, I was reminded of a book I loved as a child: The Lorax. There’s a passage toward the end where the Lorax says after his world has been ruined by industry: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.”
Thunberg cared enough, now the question is will enough of us pick up the mantle and push for the systemic changes desperately needed.
Older generations should not be using her to pass the buck onto us because she had the conviction to say the truth. We can hail her as a future leader, but what good is that if there’s no future?
I don’t want to have to look my future children in the eye and have to explain that their lives will be exponentially harder because their parents and grandparents waited nearly 40 years too late to take action.
The kids aren’t alright, because the world isn’t alright. That’s the point.
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