Although great strides have been made in the last couple of years to combat the ever-looming presence of climate change, our society has only reached the tip of the melting iceberg. Our world is burning, eroding, and suffocating as a result of humankind’s abuse of its resources. We need massive change if we want to maintain the hope of saving our planet and Greta Thunberg is leading the charge.

One might argue that a single individual can’t make a great enough difference to rescue Earth from imploding, and that all the recycling and reusable straws in the world won’t result in large scale change. But progress can come in small packages: 16-year-old Greta Thunberg serves as a gleaming example of this.

Greta Thunberg is a Swedish climate change activist who gained viral fame after skipping school on Fridays to protest the Swedish Parliament back in August 2018. Her social media posts inspired youth around the world to protest too, and soon enough, Thunberg was invited to speak at several conferences and forums regarding the climate crisis.

A young activist like Thunberg was inevitable. It is true that several generations now have been educated about individual green practices like recycling or carpooling, but those didn’t add up to anything. The truth is, climate change is the product of a hundred megacompanies who, thanks to a lack of regulations or standards by capitalist governments, have continuously screwed up the environment for decades. Gen Z is the first generation to truly see firsthand the horrific effects of this, and they’re not going to let it get any worse. This is all scientific fact, and it’s embarrassing that we have to force our world leaders to listen.

While this sensational teen identifies with having Asperger’s syndrome, and is also admittedly shy in general, listening to her fiery speeches and meeting her steely gaze proves that no matter where you are on the spectrum, you can move mountains. Her passion is inspiring, and as if striking every week and speaking in front of countless elected officials wasn’t enough, Thunberg embarked on a 15-day journey via an emissions-free boat to represent youth activists at this year’s United Nations Climate Action Summit.

Greta Thunberg’s Battle for Climate Change

The turbulent waters and severe weather Greta and her team encountered on their trip paled in comparison to the groundbreaking magnitude of her speech at the panel. “I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean,” she exclaimed. She went on to remind our world leaders how they have robbed her, and the rest of her generations, of their childhoods and dreams. This speech was felt around the world, like a global earthquake, telling the citizens of Earth to wake up.

“People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. 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?”

-Greta Thunberg

People around the planet have since risen to the occasion. Prior to the UN Climate Action Summit, millions of kids, teens, and adults across the globe took to the streets to demand action on September 20th. It was the largest climate strike in history. Even once the summit was all said and done, another worldwide climate strike followed on the 27th, and the turnout was just as massive and revolutionary. Thunberg traveled across the States to attend as many strikes as she could, meeting fans and activists inspired by her commitment to a cleaner, greener future.

How Greta Thunberg Ignited Young Environmentalists

Greta has represented youth climate change activists incredibly, and while she has become the unofficial face of the movement, she is not the only young trailblazer paving the way towards fighting for our planet’s welfare. 16-year-old Isra Hirsi, daughter of Rep. Ilhan Omar, has long been involved in fighting for social justice and is now making her voice heard on climate change. Inspired by Thunberg, she co-founded the US Youth Climate Strike and has spoken out about the Flint water crisis, the harmful impacts of pipelines, and how marginalized groups are more severely impacted by the declining health of our planet.

Another name in the youth activist game that you need to know is Autumn Peltier. A 15-year-old indigenous advocate who has made it her mission to protect the sacred waters of her people. When she was 12, she addressed Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on his policies. She talked about the unacceptable construction of pipelines across the country. According to CNN, 87 long-term drinking water advisories in Canada have been lifted since 2015, reflecting the change Peltier demanded and continues to fight for to this day.

“I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.”

-Greta Thunberg

While the stories of Thunberg and young advocates across the globe are inspiring, it should not be left to younger generations to fix the problems of the future. We can’t afford to stand idly by, and hope that the teenagers will convince our world leaders to act. Hope is the food of the wise but the liquor of the foolish. If we’re going to survive this, we’re all going to have to work a lot harder.

Become educated on the big companies that are contributing the most towards our ecological crisis. Demand action from elected officials by calling state offices, sending messages, signing and sharing petitions. No matter how big or small your efforts may be, they do add up. You may be one person, but so is Greta Thunberg.

Learn about more phenomenal young women like Greta Thunberg. Women who dedicate their lives to breaking down barriers and creating a better world for future generation.

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