April 26


What Greta Thunberg can teach us all about sustainability

By Rhys Herbert

April 26, 2019

The 16-year-old is showing the world what needs to be done. But are we listening?

In the past few months, a new voice in the climate movement has appeared. Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish activist, is leading the way for her generation.

She is a figurehead of the School strike for climate movement and has transcended her years to have a huge influence on the current discourse.

In her — and so many other inspirational young figures — there is hope for the future.

Today, this blog is all about sitting up and listening to the wisdom of Greta Thunberg. But before that, there’s an important thing that must be addressed.

First, let’s talk about the criticism

If you can stomach it, type ‘Greta Thunberg’ into a search engine. You’ll find some important, positive coverage of her work. But you’ll also find some stories that belong in the gutter.

An article written by Brendan O’Neill is particularly gruesome.

He describes the activist as “a millenarian weirdo”. He goes on to declare, “Young people, Ms Thunberg isn’t your leader. She’s a patsy for scared and elitist adults.”

Toby Young, similarly, finds a problem with the “fawning” attitude of Greta’s supporters. He goes on to write one of the most error-strewn, oversimplified and pointless articles in recent memory.

Essentially, he says there’s no point in Greta and others doing anything. He claims that creating 1,000 green jobs would “destroy 100,000 jobs in heavy industry”. Completely made up. No evidence. None at all.

It would be laughable if it wasn’t so distasteful.

What does this all say about the status quo?

The two writers represent a dangerous mindset. They are so desperate to do nothing to prevent climate breakdown that they’ll happily throw a 16-year-old with Asperger’s under the metaphorical bus.

Their dedication is not to the planet, but to inaction.

And it’s not just a couple of problematic writers, either. Our governments have been stalling on climate breakdown for decades. The science has been there for all to see since the late 1980s and yet we’ve done remarkably little in response.

There are tokens efforts here and there, sure. Plastic straws are a prime example. But in the long run, what good is that?

That’s where Greta Thunberg is leading the way so admirably. She’s spreading the word that widespread change is a must for the planet to limit the effects of climate breakdown.

What we can learn from Greta — in her own words

In just 11 minutes, her TED talk highlights the scale of the problem at hand and what must be done. Here are some inspiring, intelligent quotes from Greta herself.

The power of starting small

“Some people say that Sweden is just a small country, and that it doesn’t matter what we do, but I think that if a few children can get headlines all over the world just by not coming to school for a few weeks, imagine what we could all do together if you wanted to.”

Asking the tough questions

“Everyone keeps saying climate change is an existential threat and the most important issue of all, and yet they just carry on like before. I don’t understand that, because if the emissions have to stop, then we must stop the emissions. To me that is black or white. There are no grey areas when it comes to survival”

The facts are already out there

“Some people say that I should be in school instead. Some people say that I should study to become a climate scientist so that I can “solve the climate crisis.” But the climate crisis has already been solved. We already have all the facts and solutions. All we have to do is to wake up and change”

We need action — now

“We’ve had 30 years of pep-talking and selling positive ideas. And I’m sorry, but it doesn’t work. Because if it would have, the emissions would have gone down by now. They haven’t. And yes, we do need hope, of course we do. But the one thing we need more than hope is action.”

What can the rest of us do?

First of all, we can listen.

This is the voice of a young person concerned about her generation’s future — and those to follow.

Greta Thunberg is not a “patsy” employed by a cult. She’s a human being that cares for other human beings and the environment around her. That’s the root of her climate activism.

If people like Greta are getting angry and taking matters into their own hands, ask yourself why. It’s not for fun. It’s not to skip school. It’s because the future of the planet depends on it.

When she — and so many others like her — talk, listen. Listen and then act.

The importance of taking action

Protest, boycott, lobby, petition, demand.

Be active and be intentional. Question the policies of your government and if necessary, take to the streets. We’ve already seen the impact of Extinction Rebellion and that’s just the start.

Individuals have power and the collective has even more. Rally together and show policymakers what needs to be done.

Demand that businesses take matters into their hands and divest from fossil fuels. A green economy can work for the planet and for the people, so there’s no reason to hesitate.

Things need to change on a big scale. We’ll leave you with a few words that resonate with us:

“We can’t save the world by playing by the rules, because the rules have to be changed. Everything needs to change, and it has to start today.” — Greta Thunberg

About the Author

Rhys is Conscious Creatives' resident writer and photographer. His work has been published in various online publications, and he was recently chosen to update a bestselling book on SEO. He continues to seek new and interesting angles for his photography work, shooting his local streets on 35mm film.

Rhys Herbert

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