Thunberg caps what has been a polarizing year by addressing the U.N. about climate change.
Taking the stage with a fire and fury not seen since the days of Teddy Roosevelt, Greta Thunberg has erupted into the global debate on climate change, going toe-to-toe with United States President Donald Trump, becoming friends with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and inspiring a new wave of young climate activists. Despite her success, she is an unlikely newcomer to the international political stage.
Thunberg is a rare type of political activist, starting out from holding a sign outside the Swedish legislative chambers and writing essays for the local paper to addressing world leaders at the U.N. She recently spoke at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, giving a short, passionate speech that used the U.N.’s own findings to hopefully spur action among the represented countries. Oh, and she is a 16-year-old Swede with Asperger’s syndrome and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Her speech was not exceedingly innovative, but her age and outspoken beliefs mean far more than words, as well as her strict devotion to combating climate change. Instead of taking a normal plane ride from Sweden to the U.S., Thunberg crossed the sea in 15 days on a completely emission-free, solar-powered yacht, spending the time in thought and enjoying the natural beauty of the world. Her refusal to compromise her beliefs in the name of comfort demands admiration. In an age where politicians sit behind their comfy desks as most people slave away on the front lines, Thunberg’s leading by action strategy is wholly welcome and inspiring.
On its own, that is an extraordinary achievement, but, personally, seeing a 16-year-old turn seasoned politicians into clowns creates something far more impressive.
After addressing the U.N., Thunberg would outdo the Donald himself on his own turf: Twitter. Notably, the United States and Brazil were not invited to that climate change shindig, with the U.N. citing their lackluster actions taken to combating climate change. Although he was not invited, when asked about Thunberg’s speech, the President of the United States tweeted “She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!” However, there is one tiny issue with that statement. Thunberg has made it crystal clear that she fears for her future, with her speeches focusing on her loss of childhood due to this great, existential threat that hangs over humanity. Trump’s tweet infantilizes her, focusing on her age and trying to push her into the stereotypical 16-year-old girl box, but Thunberg turned the tables on him. She saw that tweet, highlighted it, right-clicked, went down to copy, then pasted it straight into her Twitter bio.
Even if you do not agree with her political positions, the sheer audacity it takes to bring some zoomer humor straight to the U.S. president demands respect. In my opinion, I prefer this little change of pace. A 16-year-old talking smack to a global leader, as much as people disagree with him, reminds me of childhood dreams of how I would rearrange the world if I ever had the chance. She is living this streak of amazing accomplishments, punching pretty high up the political ladder. She didn’t even stop after befriending Angela Merkel.
Thunberg looked north after conquering the U.N.’s climate summit. In no uncertain words, she made it clear to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that he was not doing enough and that his big talk about vast plans to combat climate change is nothing without implementation. Oddly enough, for someone who has made sweeping statements about planting 2 billion trees, his government is responsible for the planning of a new oil pipeline, violating a promise he made with the indigenous people of Canada, which would dramatically increase oil production and transport in an area historically kept clean of such industry.
With how much goes on in the world, and with so many potentially world-ending problems, it is good to see someone believing we can turn this ship around. I personally have a difficult time envisioning what the world will be like five, 10, 50 years from now, but in her I can now see a little more hope that there will be something to live for. Perhaps I am being selfish, but I enjoy her trouncing politicians because it reminds me that life is not meant to be so serious all the time — that one can take these few precious moments of mirth and enjoyment, and carry on. What can I say, dunking on politicians makes me happy.