I first became aware of the climate crisis in 2006 when I saw the movie “An Inconvenient Truth”.
The movie depressed me. My usual coping mechanisms failed. It took me over a year to overcome those feelings. I read everything I could about technology being developed to deal with the crisis and decided everything would work out in the end.
Yet now, more than 13 years later, things are worse than ever according to the scientists.
In 2014, an 11-year-old Swedish girl named Greta Thunberg became aware of the climate crisis. Like me, she became depressed. Unlike me, she did something about it. From her Wikipedia page:
…at age 15, she began spending her school days outside the Swedish parliament to call for stronger climate action by holding up a sign saying (in Swedish) “School strike for climate”. Soon, other students engaged in similar protests in their own communities. Together they organized a school climate strike movement under the name Fridays for Future. After Thunberg addressed the 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference, student strikes took place every week somewhere in the world.
You likely know of the worldwide “Climate Strike” protests which took place just a few weeks ago, on Friday, September 20, led by students, involving millions of people. (I attended two protests near my office in New Jersey that day, one led by a 20-year-old, and one by a 16-year-old.)
And you likely saw video clips of Greta, now 16, speaking at the United Nations the following week. If you have not, you should watch this powerful, emotional video clip.
A few months ago, I received an offer to buy a ticket to hear speakers on the climate crisis at an event called “The Right to a Future”. I didn’t carefully review the invitation. I just liked the subject matter, so I bought a ticket. When I arrived, I learned, to my great surprise, an interview of Greta was the main feature of the event.
The event took place 11 days before the September 20 worldwide climate strikes, and while I had read a few articles about Greta, including about her 15-day crossing of the Atlantic in a zero carbon emissions boat from the U.K. to New York for the U.N. Climate Summit, I had never heard her speak.
There are many videos of Greta speaking on YouTube, but in most cases she is speaking from a script. While Greta is always impressive, seeing her interviewed live, without a script, inspired awe.
English is not her first language and she speaks slowly, in a measured and plain-spoken way. She also has an autism spectrum disorder called Asperger’s, which she was asked about. She credits having Asperger’s as a key factor that led to her climate activism because, she explained, with Asperger’s “the distance between what we know and how we act is not great,” and “without my diagnosis I wouldn’t have been a nerd and wouldn’t have had the time to look through the boring facts.”
She was asked about the bullies who harass her online. “I can’t do anything,” she said. “I laugh. I have a contest with myself of which is the funniest conspiracy theory. It’s hard because they are so good.” She explained it is “a sign that you are winning and they don’t have any more arguments” when they go after you. She said, “It’s like if there is a fire and we have to put it out and instead they look at me and say, ‘What are you wearing?’”
Of the many issues on my mind in the 2016 presidential election, none were more important to me than the climate crisis. And in 2017, I was deeply disappointed when the United States withdrew from the Paris Climate Accord.
I believe the science. And if the science is wrong? That would be wonderful and I won’t regret the money spent to address the matter. I will never feel it was wasted. Just like if doctors told you tests are showing a 75% chance your family member has a deadly disease and you can either take your chances all will be okay, or spend money on a possible cure—you wouldn’t feel like you wasted money if it turned out they didn’t have the illness and all was okay.
Or another way to look at it: If you heard about a family member getting into a car accident, your first question would not be, “Is the car all right?” Your first question would be, “Is everybody okay?” because the car is replaceable. Yes, it will cost money to fix the car, even with insurance, and you might even need to replace the car, but you cannot replace a life. Similarly, you cannot replace the planet. “There is no Planet B” as many signs read at the September 20 climate strikes.
Greta, and the millions of young people she has helped to inspire, give me hope. Though as Greta has said, she does not want hope. She wants action. That’s why I have increased my giving to climate-related causes, that’s why the climate crisis will continue to be the most important issue when I vote in any election, and that’s why I’ve written this piece, which I hope will inspire you to action.
What are you doing to help address the climate crisis? Please join the conversation with your comments….