If I had the chance, I’d be yelling in the UN as well, writes Emma Tobin
In the wake of her caustic speech at the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York City, Greta Thunberg has been the focus of intense international applause.
Following the huge success of her global climate strike, with four million people participating on Friday, September 20, Greta Thunberg has become the voice of the global climate action movement. She has been lauded worldwide, but her speech last Monday, September 23, has also seen her face criticism.
She has been called a puppet of the left, insulted and belittled based on her appearance, her Asperger’s, and the highly emotional manner in which she delivered her speech.
She’s been told to sit down, to go home and take a walk in the park, to leave the business of worrying to the adults.
Those who accuse Greta of being little more than a popular mouthpiece are drastically underestimating the passion of us young people all over the world who are having the rug of global stability pulled from under their feet. If you were 16 and the inaction, the fear, the greed of your elders seemed intent upon ensuring for you a future of resource scarcity, widespread poverty, disease and disaster, would you be angry? Angry enough to yell at the adults responsible, given the chance? I am angry.
Mine is a generation of quiet nihilists, assured of our own helplessness. Earnestly doing as we’re told, recycling and quitting meat and walking and turning off the lights, while around us corporations kill the planet, and everything we do amounts to nothing against the tidal wave of pollution that is literally trying to choke us, bury us, starve us. We are losing ecosystems to unsustainable beef production while the majority of the planet goes hungry. If I had the chance that Thunberg has, I’d be yelling too, and my parents would not have to tell me to do it.
Should Greta Thunberg be in school, instead of halfway across the world telling adults to act on what they already know, before it is too late? Yes! She says so herself, but she is also proof that young people ought to have a voice in deciding global policies; it is our world they are making. It is their future they are throwing away.
Any young person would love to be able to sit back and learn, explore, plan for the future and bask in the present. But we all share this grim sense of humour, this almost-certain knowledge that the future will not be better than the past. Generations of future human beings are being sacrificed for fleeting pleasures, for the greed of the ridiculously wealthy, for the kamikaze thrill of economic booms. When Thunberg said ‘you have stolen my childhood,’ she was right. How can we teach our children that the world is their oyster when the most pertinent thing for them to say in response is ‘What world? Surely not this one? This one is melting at both ends’.
To the people in the back heckling Greta Thunberg to sit down: what will you do if she does? Will you take action to minimise the damage already done? If the youth shut their mouths and trot back to their classrooms will you be telling them emphatically in 20 years ‘no, really, tigers actually existed, once upon a time?’
It should never have been necessary for her to sit in front of the UN and tell them to do the right thing”
Until we can believe any promise you make, the likes of Greta Thunberg will not be bullied or mocked or dismissed.
It takes an inconceivable amount of courage and passion for a teenager to stand up in front of 250,000 people, as Greta did in New York several days ago, or to speak to world leaders with the kind of livid fury that is the only response to decades of inaction. Inaction which is even now burning down our rainforests, poisoning our seas, and endangering the lives of millions worldwide. I cannot imagine myself, at 16, enduring the scorn of those in denial, the condescension of those who call Greta a puppet. I cannot imagine calmly tweeting, like Greta did in the wake of this maelstrom of hatred, “don’t waste your time giving them any more attention” and bringing the conversation right back around to climate justice. I cannot imagine being so heroic at 16.
Is it right that Greta Thunberg should have to stand and take that? Of course not. It should never have been necessary for her to sit in front of the UN and tell them to do the right thing. Were you upset that she seemed angry, that she seemed close to tears at points throughout her speech? Does it gall you to see a young girl incandescent with rage at the ridiculous, frustrating, disgusting fact that we must beg and plead for the planet to be saved? Good. That was kind of the point.
If you care about this brave 16-year old, surrendering herself to the scrutiny of the world for the sake of saving it, don’t tell her to go home and be a child. Tell her what you will do to make that possible.
Emma Tobin (22), from Co. Kildare, is a UCD graduate of the Bachelor of Arts in English and Philosophy in 2018, she is currently doing a Masters’ in Creative Writing in UCD.