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Greta Thunberg: No one is too small to be the change

Amid the climate change scenario, one heartening development is the emergence of several proactive climate warriors across the globe.

ByDebananda S Ningthoujam

Updated 3 Dec 2022, 4:35 pm

(Representational Image: Unsplash)
(Representational Image: Unsplash)

Climate change is a serious global issue threatening the future of humankind and other life forms on our planet. Because of anthropogenic activities, the average global temperature has risen by more than 1 degree Celsius over the past several decades (since 1880). This will lead to (has already led to) several challenges such as untimely droughts and floods, sea level rise, northward movement of vectors (transmitters of diseases e.g., mosquitoes), submergence of low-lying countries (e.g., Bangladesh), crop failures, rise of new pests and pathogens, large-scale human migrations, coral bleaching, decline of insect pollinators, and water scarcity etc.

Global climatic change would pervasively impact agriculture, industry, medicine, and other sectors of human society. The scientific evidence for global warming is loud and clear. Yet, there are still climate-deniers and our politicians bicker shamelessly in global climate meetings, eg, the recently concluded COP27 summit.

One heartening development is the emergence of several proactive climate warriors across the globe. These young climate activists are taking bold initiatives which, surprisingly, we adults couldn’t take up. One such activist is Greta Thunberg, a name which would be familiar to many readers of this column. Today, let’s take a brief overview of her life, career, and activism so far.

Early Life

Greta was born on January 3, 2003 in Stockholm, Sweden. Her mother, Malena Ernman, was an international opera singer; and father, Svante Thunberg, is an actor. Greta’s grandfather, Olof Thunberg, is an actor and director. She has a younger sister named Beata.

Greta first learnt about climate change in 2011, and could not understand why so little was being done about it. The situation made her depressed and lethargic; she stopped talking and eating and lost weight excessively in a short period. Eventually, Greta was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and selective mutism (would talk only when needed).

Climate Activism

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To reduce the family’s carbon footprint, Greta insisted her parents on becoming vegan, upcycling and giving up international air travel (this led to the end of her mother’s opera career).

In 2018, Greta began skipping school and speaking as a global environmental activist. She also sat outside Sweden’s parliament with a sign that read “School Strike for Climate.” Her activism soon caught international attention. Thunberg then returned to school but continued skipping classes on Fridays to strike, and these days were called “Fridays for Future.” Strikes soon spread to other countries including Belgium, Canada, the US, the UK, Finland, Denmark, France, and the Netherlands.

Invitations to Global Fora

Greta soon received invitations to speak about climate change on several global platforms. She delivered speeches at the World Economic Forum (WEF, Davos, Switzerland), the European Parliament, and in front of the legislatures of Italy, France, the UK, and the US.

In September 2019, she made an appearance at a UN climate event in New York City. She traveled to the meeting on an emissions-free yacht. There, she gave a fiery speech. To quote a few lines, she said “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words…We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money, and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!” In that month, millions of climate protesters marched in climate strikes in more than 163 countries. Thunberg was credited with changing people’s attitude about climate change, an influence now dubbed “the Greta Effect.” However, she also had prominent detractors such as Brazilian President, Jair Bolsonaro, who called her a “brat” in 2019.

Other Kinds of Activism

Besides her environmental and climate work, Greta was also credited with raising awareness about Asperger syndrome. She also highlighted the advantages of having Asperger’s, “I have Asperger and that means I’m sometimes a bit different from the norm. And-given the right circumstances-being different is a superpower.”

Publications and Documentaries

In 2019, Penguin published a collection of her speeches in the form of a book entitled “No One is Too Small to Make a Difference.”

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The documentary “I Am Greta” was released in 2020. BBC also broadcasted a series Great Thunberg: A Year to Change the World in April 2021.

Latest Book: The Climate Book

The Climate Book is a book compiled by Greta Thunberg which is a compilation of writings by over 100 experts-geophysicists, oceanographers, and meteorologists; engineers, economists, and mathematicians; philosophers, historians, and indigenous groundbreakers-who wrote essays about the changes to the Earth’s climate. Greta is also a contributor to this book and is considered an author of this book. The book has been released in the UK (October 2022) and Australia (November 2022). It is slated to be released in the US and elsewhere in 2023.

There are many captivating essays in this book. For example, Paul Brannen writes about the chemistry of the carbon cycle. He warns that, unless we take immediate steps, we may see a future in which “one could travel the world without seeing a tree.” Naomi Oreskes writes about “the history of denial and obfuscation by the fossil fuel industry” and there are other fascinating writings by climate scientist Kate Marvel and novelist Amitav Ghosh.

Awards

Greta Thunberg has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for three years in succession (2019, 2020, and 2021).

We may hope that Greta and other global activists would eventually make our politicians, policymakers, and other stakeholders mend their ways, ignite them to realize the climate threat, goad them to take up policy initiatives to mitigate global warming, urge them to develop alternatives to fossil fuels, compel them to draw up strategies to conserve our remaining forest, and convince the industrial nations to liberally donate funds to enable poor countries to implement climate-friendly, climate-proof, and future-proof (sustainable) agricultural, pharmaceutical, and industrial schemes.

(The views expressed are personal)

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climate changeenvironmentchangegreta thunberg

Debananda S Ningthoujam

Debananda S Ningthoujam

The author teaches and studies microbial biochemistry and biotechnology at Manipur University

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