Move aside Ironman, Thor, Captain America. There is a new superhero in town, and she is an ordinary, school-going, 16-year old Swede.
Meet Greta Thumberg, for those of you who have been snoozing too long. On 20 and 27 September this year, Greta will lead the worldwide strike from New York City to push governments to do more to deal with the climate crisis we face.
The strike is fashioned after Greta’s original protest earlier in 2019 in her native country, when she walked out of class and protested in front of the Sweden Parliament against her government’s lack of action vis a vis the climate change situation.
Her protest went viral online and was picked up by news media all over the world, turning her into the face of the environmental movement which, honestly, was sputtering lately. Given that influential people like United States president Donald Trump are deniers of climate change, and indeed are continuing to encourage the abuse of the environment for profit, the world truly needs more Greta Thumbergs to kick them in the butt.
The science is there, factual, evident-based, corroborated by the vast majority of scientists. The change in the earth’s climate will have profound, devastating, existential consequences for human beings, and for all species of plants and animals.
The Artic ice caps are melting, earth’s temperature and sea level are rising, natural phenomena such as hurricanes have become more massive and unpredictable, deforestation continues unabated, affecting the ecosystem, species extinction has accelerated – the latest news is that 3 billion birds have disappeared across the US and Canada since 1970, and worldwide a 29% decline in bird population in the last 48 years.
Coastal cities from Singapore to the Bahamas, and even whole continent like Australia, will face existential threats which have no historical precedents.
But make no mistake: earth itself will rejuvenate, as it always has over millennia. Nature will take care of that.
It is humans whose presence on this planet will go extinct if we do not do anything to change the course of what presently looks inevitable.
In short, we need a superhuman effort, which can only be led by human beings themselves – and this is where those like Greta Thunberg come in, and why their campaign is so important.
The politicians, who are supposed to be at the forefront of leading us in this effort, are dragging their feet for various reasons, such as vested business and corporate interests, or – like Trump – for dumb excuses, that they do not believe climate change is real.
Greta Thunberg’s campaign has no time for such things – we have little time left – and is focused on truly putting shoulder to the wheel of effort.
“If you want advice for what you should do, invite scientists, ask scientists for their expertise,” she told the US Congress in September, days before she led the Fridays for Future strike event. “We don’t want to be heard. We want the science to be heard.”
The very fact that a young woman like Greta has to urge our leaders to do this very basic, commonsense thing – to listen to the science and scientist – is a sign of how slow we have been and how urgent the matter is.
We are starting from the bare-boned, lowest point.
“I know you are trying but just not hard enough. Sorry,” she told Congress.
She also reminded everyone that sometimes we are looking at the wrong solutions to the climate/environmental problem. Perhaps instead of spending billions of dollars to build dams to stave off rising sea levels, and continuing to burn fossil fuels, we should help nature heal itself.
For example, we can plant trees, which are nature’s “vacuum cleaners” which suck up carbon dioxide and release oxygen. The protection and restoration of living ecosystems such as forests, mangroves and seagrass meadows can repair the planet’s broken climate but are being overlooked, says Greta in a new video message.
“Right now, we are ignoring natural climate solutions,” said Greta. “We spend 1,000 times more on global fossil fuel subsidies than on nature-based solutions. This is your money, it is your taxes, and your savings.”
“Nature is a tool we can use to repair our broken climate,” said George Monbiot, an author and Guardian journalist who founded a Natural Climate Solutions campaign earlier this year. “These solutions could make a massive difference, but only if we leave fossil fuels in the ground as well.”
The time is now.
Earth needs heroes to save humans from killing themselves, and all life on the planet. But these real-life heroes do not wear capes, or are billionaires, or who carry special vibranium shields like the superheroes in comic books.
They instead are ordinary people, students, workers, your parents, make and female, youths like Greta Thunberg who, inicidentally, is autistic and has ADHD.
If we all pull together, and pressure our leaders to do right and to divert, allocate and focus resources on this most important of all issues, we can deal with the crisis and save ourselves from extinction.