Dhanada Kanta Mishra
reta Thunberg, 16, was recently nominated by some members of parliament from Sweden for the Nobel peace prize for her astonishing leadership to a global movement demanding urgent action to stop climate change. Greta was born in Stockholm in 2003. Her mother is an opera singer, and father, an actor and author. On August 20, 2018, Greta began a campaign in front of the Swedish parliament urging the government to take urgent action to stop climate change. She bicycled to the parliament with a signboard spelling out her demand and some pamphlets and stood there almost all day; few paid attention.
But Today, eight months later, as she returns every Friday to the same spot to continue her protest, millions join her all over the world in a massive people’s movement — ‘Fridays For Future’. It is no less than a miracle for an ordinary teenage girl, declared autistic by doctors and diagnosed four years ago with Asperger’s syndrome, following a long bout of depression.
At the age of eight, she had first watched videos on environmental crises such as the melting of polar ice caps, oceans getting swamped with plastic and deforestation at school. She was deeply affected and cried through most screenings. She was depressed by the manifest apathy around her – especially of people in power to address the crisis. Eventually she shared her thoughts with her parents and was determined do something about it. While her parents were initially very concerned, they supported her unconditionally. Inspired by the actions of American students against the powerful gun lobby following the Parkland high school shooting, Greta and friends wanted to take similar action, but were not sure how to go about it. Finally, Greta decided to act on her own and the rest, as they say, is history.
When politicians question students boycotting school on Fridays to support ‘Friday4Future’ movement, Greta responds by pointing out the uselessness of school, as what is taught at school is not implemented by the powers that be to protect humanity against climate perils
Greta has emerged in the increasingly desperate scene of climate change activism as a godsend and it couldn’t have come sooner. The global green movement, which traces its history to the Seventies was showing signs of fatigue in the face of sustained attack from the fossil fuel lobby with corporate giants backing them with huge funding. The ‘convenient lie’ was successfully perpetrated even as more than 99 per cent of scientists reached a consensus that changes in climate was directly driven by anthropogenic causes such as burning of fossil fuels, industrial activities, transport, commercial mass agriculture, and deforestation, among other things.
The convenient lie takes the form of doubts that have been deliberately planted in the minds of the general public through massive propaganda. Just like the tobacco lobby’s denial of smoking as a cause of cancer, climate denial is growing more and more powerful, thanks to the spread of social media and fake news. The United States continues to be both leader in climate science and activism while being home to the most powerful climate denial lobby that takes many forms – from political alliances, ideological platforms and think-tanks to intellectual fora – all driven by massively powerful PR firms. As a result, despite the well-known catastrophic consequences of climate change, very little by way of mitigation seems to be catching the necessary momentum to halt the juggernaut of assured destruction.
Greta arrived at this critical juncture and caught the imagination of young people everywhere. Even progressive politicians keen to support strong action against climate change in the form of carbon tax, incentives for renewables and other regulations that may restrict the profligate lifestyles need strong public support.
That can only come from a mass movement such as #Fridays4Future. Without such public outcry, no bureaucratic initiative such as the Paris Protocol can yield desired results. In her public interactions, Greta often imagines life on Earth after a few decades. By that time, many of the present generation may have passed on without experiencing the worst impact of climate change; but Greta’s generation will be at the peak of their life, having to suffer the worst.
When politicians question students boycotting school on Fridays to support ‘Friday4Future’ movement, Greta responds by pointing out the uselessness of school, as what is taught at school is not implemented by the powers that be to protect humanity against climate perils.
The tragedy of the climate crisis is that the problem is known, the solutions are proven, yet humanity is unable to take strong action in the face of the entrenched greed of vested interests — the fossil feul industry. Some compare it with the ‘Titanic’ rushing towards its grave, but it could be likened to the recent crashes of the Boeng 737 Max planes which were the result of corporate greed that placed profit over safety.
History is replete with examples of young enlightened souls showing the path to grown-ups. Just as our very own Baji Rout, or Joshua Wong who led the umbrella movement in Hong Kong, Greta is showing a mirror to the society, which is preaching sustainability but practising the most unsustainable lifestyles. The British romantic poet Williams Wordsworth famously said – ‘Child is the father of man’. Greta and her supporters will prove him right by leading mankind out of the current existential crisis into a world that would live up to Mahatma Gandhi’s words: “Nature has enough for everyone’s need but not everyone’s greed.”
The author is a civil engineering professor and Principal of KMBB College of Engineering and Technology under BPUT currently visiting Hong Kong University of Science and Technology as a Research Scholar. e-Mail: [email protected]