On Sept. 23, 16-year-old Greta Thunberg delivered a speech to the UN in New York, demanding immediate action regarding the current climate crisis.
Thunberg, without even cracking a joke or smile, let the weight of her words sink into the room.
And rightfully so.
She is just one of the millions of young people who have stressed the seriousness of climate change.
“This is all wrong,” Thunberg said. “I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school, on the other side of the ocean. Yet, you have come to us young people for hope. How dare you?”
Thunberg has received the utmost praise and, to many, has become the symbol of hope as the world faces the terrifying reality of climate change.
“She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright wonderful future. So nice to see,” Trump said in response to her speech on Monday.
But Thunberg is correct— this is all wrong.
The 16-year-old, who should be in school, has taken a sabbatical for a year to address the existential threat some adults in power have yet to fully acknowledge.
Thunberg traveled from Sweden to New York City on a zero-emissions boat -a two-week journey- just to speak for four minutes in front of some of the most influential political leaders in the world.
Frustratingly, her two-week-long journey and four-minute speech received a lukewarm response from our president. Trump is one of many leaders who fail to fully comprehend not only the harsh reality of climate change, but also the tragic truth that some teenagers, like Thunberg, have sacrificed their youth to compensate for politicians’ inability to act.
And while Thunberg is an unmatched leader, she said it best herself, “I only speak when I see it as necessary, and now is one of those moments.”
Although political leaders did not grow up with the same urgency about climate change, youth activism has played a critical role in societal progress since the 1960s.
But if all politicians have lived through major student protests, what happens to that sense of urgency once they enter office?
Thunberg is not, as Trump responds, a “very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future.” Instead, she is a betrayed, young girl, carrying the weight that adult leaders fail to lift so she can have her desired future.
The belittlement of youth activism only makes it more necessary. Hope for the future is not “nice to see.” A child’s access to a future is a fundamental right.
While student activists have been, and will continue to be, a driving force for change, leaders like Thunberg speak up because our leaders have failed to do so. She is right. This is all wrong.
What would be “nice to see” is politicians at least matching the efforts that youth activists have made, sacrificing their childhood in order to fight for the right to their future.
It’s time for politicians to lift the burden and lead.
It would be “nice to see” children and teenagers dreaming of and preparing for their futures instead of fighting for the chance to have one.