Have You Met Greta Thunberg?

On Monday, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres assembled a climate summit. His goal was to reinvigorate the Paris climate agreement, originally adopted in 2015 by 174 nations plus the European Union. – President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the agreement in 2017. — And now, sixty-six countries have responded to Mr. Guterres’ call to renew their focus on this crisis, vowing to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. (You might notice that’s a potentially-disaster-filled 30 long years from now.)  

Yesterday, I watched a video of Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, speaking to attendees of the U.N. summit. And all I can say is, what a remarkable young woman! As I viewed her impassioned upbraiding of that roomful of eminent adults, it was impossible for me to be unmoved. Everything she said was indisputably true and unarguably urgent. (If you haven’t yet seen Greta’s brief speech, you can Google: ‘How dare you?’: Greta Thunberg slams world leaders at UN climate summit. ) 

So what happened after she spoke? Well as you would expect, the right wing immediately belittled her. Fox News commentator Laura Ingraham compared Greta to a character from the Stephen King horror film “Children of the Corn.” Trump mockingly tweeted: “She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see.” 

But despite the push back from our nation’s Bully in Chief and those Fox practitioners of Goebbels-style Journalism, Ms. Thunberg’s words resonated around the world. And — if we were living in a less dysfunctional nation — I think over the coming days they might have resonated much more in our U.S.A. too. 

With thousands of people presently being flooded out of their homes on the Gulf and Atlantic coasts (ironically, often Trump-friendly areas), Greta’s words might have started a national conversation and a demand for serious, non-partisan action to address the changing climate. 

Unfortunately, within hours of her U.N. speech, America’s attention turned to a brand new subject, the impeachment of President Donald J. Trump. And this time it appears the U.S. House will seriously pursue drawing up those articles of impeachment. This means that in the coming months, along with all the news coverage of the Democratic Party’s presidential candidates, our country will be further politically polarized. 

Perhaps the saddest aspect of this sad page in our history is that the Trump impeachment proceedings, although decidedly called for, will take up valuable time that could have been spent focusing on issues that desperately need the attention of the public and our lawmakers. You know the issues, but among them climate change, the existential threat to all future generations and in fact to life on earth, must be given the highest priority. 

Each year, more of our planet’s living things are brought closer to extinction, more arable land brought closer to becoming desert, more millions of people brought closer to being displaced, more extreme weather events becoming the norm. We cannot accept the path we are on as unavoidable. For the sake of our children and every future generation we must establish continuous and uncompromising policies that will slow down and eventually halt this disastrous process. 

I know we have legislators at the state and national level as well as officals in local offices that have been championing legislation to deal with this crisis. — We must encourage them to continue their work with increased ferocity.  

Greta Thunberg’s message wasn’t just addressing her U.N. audience. Her fiery words were aimed at every one of us and at every person we have helped to elect in every level of government — even the most enlightened, energetic and dedicated among us. We must ask ourselves and ask the office holders representing us, what more can we do?  

It’s good to know that long after Donald Trump and his enablers are no longer present in a world they clearly care so little about, Greta Thunberg and hundreds of thousands of others inspired by her will be around. We must do all we can to make the world they inherit better than they expect.

Nels Howard, NTD Member Since 1973