Greta Thunberg: a world changer, an advocate, an environmentalist, and a 16-year-old girl. Some call her an “old soul,” as if one must be well along in years before they can have a vision for the world around them. Thunberg’s short and storied life teaches the world a few lessons, both in the message for which she advocates and the means by which she advocates.
“This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here.” This is how Thunberg addressed world leaders at the United Nations’ Climate Action Summit. When she informed them that the youth of the world were watching their actions, she was met with laughter. It soon became clear that Thunberg’s message was not a laughing matter. She threw out statistics and suggestions, and made sure that her acclaimed audience didn’t forget that she should be in school at that moment. Instead, she was in front of the leaders of the world’s nations, holding them accountable in a way that adults had proved to be unwilling. She explained the true urgency of the issue of climate change and even asserted that knowing the urgency and doing nothing would make these leaders “evil.”
Often, young people are considered to be automatically rendered ineffective because of the amount of time they’ve existed on the Earth. Thunberg is evidence that anyone with passion to improve their environment, no matter their age, should chase it relentlessly because change must start somewhere. Thunberg saw that generations above her were ignoring the problems they caused, so she volunteered to fix them.
If instrumental change can start in a high school, it can surely find beginnings on a college campus. As a community, we should follow Thunberg’s lead and bring problems to light that have been obscured. By merely drawing attention to the problem, people can become agents of change. Making incremental changes, like using a reusable water bottle, switching to a bamboo toothbrush, or buying secondhand when possible, can lead to greater environmental awareness. These actions, in conjunction with holding politicians who have the power to enact change through policy accountable, are simple strides towards advancement.
It is easy to feel powerless when considering issues as momentous as climate change. However, there is power in numbers. The fact that the issue of climate change is so present in the media currently is already a step in the right direction because awareness inspires action. A house divided may not be able to stand, but a world united can save the planet. It may take more than a call to action to unite the world, but uniting the leaders behind the issue is a starting point.
Greta Thunberg is a lot of things, but yielding is not one of them. The issue of climate change is nowhere near resolved, and it is assured that Thunberg will continue to call out leaders on their inactivity with tenacity. If relentless pursuit of what she believes in makes Thunberg an “old soul,” then everyone should aim to be an “old soul.”