A documentary film based on Greta Thunberg, environmental activist, was screened and received a special mention in the Venice film festival on 4th of September,2020. The movie ‘I am Greta’ is to be screened on October in some European countries and in early 2021 in Asian countries, including India.
Recently, she has raised her voice for the protest to postpone NEET and JEE exams in India, supporting the cause of millions of Indian students.
Her famous speech with the line, “How dare you?” grabbed media attention and made her a popular figure on the world stage.
So, who is Greta? Why is she an environmentalist, fighting for her cause in the age of 17, where everyone else of her age is happily going to school? Here’s her story.
Greta Thunberg was born on 3rd January, 2003 in Sweden. She was a normal child, until 2011. When she was 8 years old, she came to know about the global climatic change and the fact that this issue is not being taken seriously, made her depressed. She did not talk to anyone, and lost 10 kgs in just 2 months. She was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, OCD ( Obsessive compulsive disorder) and selective mutism. Greta was under depression for 2 years when she first began her school strike movement. The school strike movement was the one which internationally recognised her as a climate activist.
The inspiration for this movement came from teen activists at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, USA, organised the March for Our Lives in support of greater gun control in 2018.
Greta won an essay competition for climate change held by a Swedish newspaper. Upon reading her essay article, she was contacted by Bo Thoren from Fossil Free Dalsland, a group interested in doing something about climate change. She attending some of the meetings, one in which Thoren suggested the student strike. Greta tried to bring others to this movement but since none were really interested, she did the movement all by herself.
She started her strike on 20th August 2018, demanding the Sweden government to take steps to reduce carbon emissions, abiding by the Paris agreement, after the heat waves and wild fires in Sweden occurred during the hottest summer in Sweden in 262 years.
After posting her first day protest on social media like twitter and Instagram, she gained attention by local media and other high-profile activists and on the very next day many joined her protest.
She had challenged her parents to give up flying because of the carbon emissions it causes. They did not listen to her words earlier when she showed the pollution indicating graphs. Later she said them that they were stealing her future. That is when her parents decided to give up on flying. Till date, she and her parents do not travel by flight, instead they sail.
After October 2018, she started taking part in demonstrations in Europe and made high profile public speeches, progressing in her activism.
Her daily strike was then modified to a weekly protest named ‘Fridays for future’ that occurs every Friday outside the Swedish parliament.
She has been later called for various international events, where her words were very effective and thoughtful as well, which attracted the media towards her. As a result, she became a globally popular figure.
On September 18, 2019, Thunberg was invited to give testimony in the US House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, but she gave an eight-sentence statement and submitted the ‘IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C’ as evidence.
On September 23, 2019, she attended the UN climate action summit, where the UNICEF hosted a press conference. During this, Thunberg, with 15 other children, filed a complaint against five nations which failed to comply with the Paris agreement to reduce emissions. On the same summit, was her famous speech where she questioned world leaders who were thinking only at developing the economy and not caring about the environment with the signature words, “how dare you?”.
Thunberg participated in climate protests in Canada leading a climate rally as part of the 27 September Global Climate Strike in Montreal. According to one of the co-organizers, the school strikes for climate on 20 and 27 September 2019 were attended by over four million people.
Thunberg’s concern is that her generation hardly have a future to live and their future was sold so that a small number of people could make unimaginable amounts of money.
She also points that lowering emissions is not enough, and says emissions need to be reduced to zero if the world is to keep global warming to less than 1.5°C.
In February 2019, at a conference of the European Economic and Social Committee, she said that the EU’s current intention to cut emissions by 40% by 2030 is “not sufficient to protect the future for children growing up today” and that the EU must reduce their CO2 emissions by 80%, double the 40% goal.
What has changed?
The European commission, this year have published a new proposal for a climate law, which Thunberg considered to be a surrender.
She inspired school students worldwide to take part in student strikes. In a month, more than 20,000 students had held strikes in at least 270 cities.
In June 2019, Swedish Railways (SJ) reported that the number of Swedes taking the train for domestic journeys had risen by 8% from the previous year, reflecting growing public concern (reflected in a survey published by the Swedish Railways) about the impact of flying has on CO 2 emissions. Sweden has reported a 4% drop in domestic air travel for 2019 and an increase in rail use. Thunberg’s promotion of using alternate ways of transport for air travel has created this impact.
Although a lot of criticism is made on her by many leaders, especially US president Trump, her ideas are encouraged by many. Not worrying about the criticisms, she still strides forward towards her goal. It is never too early for anyone to fight for a good cause, and Greta is one of the finest examples.
In her words, “We proved that it does matter what you do and that no one is too small to make a difference.”