On Sept. 18, I listened to Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist who testified before a U.S. Congressional hearing on climate change. Her message was brief and then she answered questions along with a number of fellow youth climate activists.
She told the congressional members that she had no prepared remarks and, instead, was leaving them with written testimony. She said, “I am submitting this report as my testimony because I don’t want you to listen to me, I want you to listen to the scientists. And I want you to unite behind the science. And then I want you to take real action.”
Nevertheless, four months earlier she did offer more extensive remarks to the British Parliament. Here, in part, is what she said:
“My name is Greta Thunberg. I am 16 years old. I come from Sweden. And I speak on behalf of future generations. I know many of you don’t want to listen to us—you say we are just children. But we’re only repeating the message of the united climate science.
“Many of you appear concerned that we are wasting valuable lesson time, but I assure you we will go back to school the moment you start listening to science and give us a future. Is that really too much to ask?
“In the year 2030, I will be 26 years old. My little sister Beata will be 23. Just like many of your own children or grandchildren. That is a great age, we have been told. When you have all of your life ahead of you. But I am not so sure it will be that great for us.
“I was fortunate to be born in a time and place where everyone told us to dream big; I could become whatever I wanted to. I could live wherever I wanted to. People like me had everything we needed and more. Things our grandparents could not even dream of. We had everything we could ever wish for and yet now we may have nothing.
“Now we probably don’t even have a future any more.
“Because that future was sold so that a small number of people could make unimaginable amounts of money. It was stolen from us every time you said that the sky was the limit and that you only live once.
“You lied to us. You gave us false hope. You told us that the future was something to look forward to. And the saddest thing is that most children are not even aware of the fate that awaits us. We will not understand it until it’s too late. And yet we are the lucky ones. Those who will be affected the hardest are already suffering the consequences. But their voices are not heard.”
Greta went on to offer more specific information about reductions in greenhouse gases including methane gas escaping from rapidly thawing arctic permafrost. A note of clarification: When methane leaks into the air before being used it absorbs the sun’s heat, warming the atmosphere. If you would like more scientific detail you can read Greta’s full remarks to Parliament by clicking the link provided at the bottom of this column.
Greta concluded her remarks by stating, “We children are not sacrificing our education and our childhood for you to tell us what you consider is politically possible in the society that you have created. We have not taken to the streets for you to take selfies with us, and tell us that you really admire what we do.
“We children are doing this to wake the adults up. We children are doing this for you to put your differences aside and start acting as you would in a crisis. We children are doing this because we want our hopes and dreams back.
“I hope my microphone was on. I hope you could all hear me.”
Just as Greta wanted Congress to listen to the scientists, I would like you to listen to her.
To read Greta Thunberg’s full testimony to Parliament, visit www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/apr/23/greta-thunberg-full-speech-to-mps-you-did-not-act-in-time.
Andrew Malekoff is the executive director of North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center, which provides comprehensive mental health services for children from birth through 24 and their families. To learn more about the Guidance Center’s innovative programs, call 516-626-1971 or visit www.northshorechildguidance.org.