The 16-year-old Swedish teenager who's saving the planet

How Greta Thunberg is doing more to fight the climate crisis than most politicians

Although Greta Thunberg is a teenager, she has a clear view of the Earth's dire future.
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With federal elections looming in both Canada and the US, politicians have been emphasizing for months where they stand on hot-button issues like the economy, job security, and health care. One of these issues that’s become increasingly polarized is the world climate crisis. 
 
Unfortunately, denying the climate crisis has become a defining characteristic of right-wing leaders, who have prioritized economic concerns over immediate climate action. 
 
This means that instead of banding together to fix the crisis almost guaranteed to destroy our planet, North American politicians, both left- and right-leaning, are wasting time arguing about the nuances of carbon taxes, fossil fuels, and private jets. They spend days attacking one another over these specific issues instead of seeing the climate crisis for what it is: a threat to humanity.
 
Popular climate activist Greta Thunberg may be a teenager, but she has a clearer view of Earth’s dire future than most adults. She doesn’t just spread knowledge about the climate crisis—she lives a sustainable lifestyle to show that individual change is possible.
 
The Swedish climate activist has been vegan for a few years, alongside her parents, but that’s far from the most drastic change she’s made to her life. In the fall of 2018, Thunberg started taking Fridays off high school and standing in front of government offices to protest the crisis. Since then, countless other school-age students worldwide have joined in her efforts, sharing their solidarity with the social media hashtag #FridaysForFuture. 
 
Most recently, Thunberg was invited to speak at the 2019 UN Climate Summit in New York City. Due to her pledge not to travel by air because of the harmful emissions caused by airplane travel, the crew of the Malizia II invited the activist to board their monohull sailing yacht, retrofitted with solar panels and underwater turbines to become carbon neutral.
 
This means Thunberg was able to travel across the Atlantic Ocean to share her thoughts with North America without further damaging the planet, while simulaneously raising awareness about eco-friendly travel.
 
Having now landed in New York, Thunberg is giving speeches, participating in interviews, and striking with other students on Fridays, just as she’s done for the past year. While her visit to North America has been widely celebrated on social media, some right-wing politicians and media figures, uncomfortable with her drastic words about the climate crisis, have taken to personal attacks against Thunberg—an activist who (some people need reminding) is a young teenage girl. 
 
Maxime Bernier,  Member of Parliament for Beauce and leader of the People’s Party of Canada, was criticized for his Tweets about Thunberg on Sept. 2, when he called her “mentally unstable” and criticized her action on climate change as leftist fear-mongering. Thunberg has been open about her OCD and autism diagnoses, which she calls her “gift,” and has also spoken publicly about past struggles with an eating disorder. 
 
If politicians resort to using an incredibly brave child’s mental health and diagnoses against her, they must be scared of her power, which grows to enfranchise other youth every day.
 
It’s important to remember that Thunberg’s impassioned pleas for climate action have become so popular worldwide because children are now doing the work to save our planet that adults have avoided. 
 
Instead of setting aside political differences to take a look at our society’s impact on Earth, elected officials are spending their time Tweeting insults at teenagers. Greta Thunberg has done an incredible job of rallying today’s youth in the pursuit of climate action, but younger students can only protest so much. While university students might not have the ability to skip school on Fridays to protest, we have a valuable weapon against the climate crisis—our ballots.
 
It’s up to us as young adults who can vote to ensure the climate crisis is stopped and the politicians holding us back from progress are voted out of office. It’s up to us to attend protests, lobby governments, and invest in sustainability before it’s too late.
 
In a hurricane of bureaucracy, debates, and lies, Greta Thunberg has emerged as a sole carbon-neutral lifeboat. We should join her with a fleet of our own.
 

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