The Fate Of The World In The Hands Of Our Children

Grow Talk by Sofy Robertson

“Kids these days”; a phrase that was tutted at me or around me when I was a child and that still echoes today from the older generation to the young. Some kids these days may be making the headlines for bringing weapons to school or for vandalising their local area but an increasing number of these kids, our kids, are rising up and letting their voices be known.

If you are under eighteen, you do not get a vote on political issues. That goes without saying. But children around the country and around the world are realising that no vote is not synonymous with no voice.

Earlier this month, Grow Talk reported on the children in Australia who left their studies for one day to protest their government’s inaction on climate change. Young people by the thousands took to the streets to protest for their future, rebuking President Morrison and his opinion that there should be “less activism in schools”. (News Hub) Many of these students were inspired by the actions of a lone Swedish teenager who began taking action against climate change by walking out of school.

The COP24 summit, which took place in Poland this month, saw world leaders coming together to discuss climate change with influential speakers, scientists and the UK’s very own Sir David Attenborough taking the people’s seat. Yet, one of the most powerful and honest speeches given at the summit came from fifteen-year-old Swedish student Greta Thunberg, the same student who inspired thousands to walk out of their schools halfway across the globe.

Greta’s speech accused world leaders’ of stealing the future of her generation “in front of [our] very eyes” and condemned them for prioritising what is “politically possible” over what needed to be done. With a foresight rare even in adults, she spoke of her future self and the generations to come who may question “why you didn’t do anything”.

It was a personal and passionate speech, addressing all present through Greta’s choice of pronoun “you” and therefore acknowledging the complicity of all those present, yet including the pronoun “we” to demonstrate that it is only through collective action that change will happen:

“We cannot solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis.

“If solutions within this system are so impossible to find, then maybe we should change the system itself.”

At just fifteen-years-old, Greta has inspired a political movement, urging young people to walk out of their schools on Fridays; #FridaysForFuture. At first, she was alone in walking out of her school but she kept doing it and through social media, the word rapidly spread and now thousands join her.

Last Friday, a number of students inspired by Greta left their classes and walked into the conference centre in Poland where the summit was held. They held signs which bore the message ’12 years left’; a reference to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report which states that global climate change targets could become impossible in just twelve years.

Greta has become an inspirational figure for young people around the world, despite her humble background. On Twitter, she describes herself as a “15 year old climate activist with Asperger’s” yet she commanded the conference room at the COP24 summit, speaking not only to those present in the room, but to the millions watching on news channels and social media platforms.

Perhaps one of the most damning parts of Greta’s speech was her accusation:

“You are not mature enough to tell it like it is, even that burden you leave to us children.”

This statement bore with it the realisation that Greta, the students of Australia, the children involved in Extinction Rebellion and so many more are having to bear this premature responsibility of taking political action.

Leaders such as Australia’s president have criticised the walkouts, the time lost from education, but the responsibility to take action has fallen to the people that it will affect most; our children.

Climate change is happening, it has become a fact that can no longer be ignored. Greta’s words ring with an undeniable truth:

“We have run out of excuses and we are running out of time.”

For Greta to continue to protest and inspire others as she is doing demonstrates that, despite everything, there is still hope and strength in our world’s community. In her closing words, Greta made her message clear:

“The real power belongs to the people.”

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