“I want you to panic, I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.”Greta Thunberg
I know that Greta Thunberg, or GT as we called her, holds the power to be both a terrifying and formidable voice on the global stage.
In my former role at a global platform nonprofit I was tasked with keeping an eye out for GT’s social activities. If she put up a sign or spoke at an informal event, we had to know what it said and how it was being said.
Her presence was highly sought after, but there was also a level of uncertainty about how much she would criticize our event. Turns out, GT’s plan was to use this international platform to condemn world leaders for failing all of us – and I couldn’t be more pleased with her speech.
Since then, GT has become the global face of youth movements against climate change, and was recently named Person of the Year by Time Magazine.
How a 16-year-old launched a worldwide movement
“Why bother to learn anything in school if politicians won’t pay attention to the facts?”Greta Thunberg
In 2018, the Swedish teenager began protesting outside Swedish Parliaments with a sign that said “School Strike for Climate”. From there, she led a nationwide school walkout every Friday to protest the government’s reluctance to address climate change.
Her movement soon gained an international presence, and within 16 months she was invited to speak with world leaders around the globe including the Pope. She also kicked off this year’s climate march with more than 4 million people participating around the world (including Team Temboo!).
To be clear, Greta never wanted to be on the global stage, but her ability to cut through meaningless speeches from decision-makers spoke volumes to people around the world. She now represents the next generation refusing to standby and do nothing, and she’s not alone.
Greta is not the only young woman fighting against climate change. Below is a glimpse of some of the other youth activists from around the globe that are fighting to save our planet.
Autumn Peltier, 15, Canada
Autumn was 8 years old when she recalls a seeing a sign that said, “toxic water” at a washroom in the Serpent River First Nation reserve. Having always had freshwater, the feeling of not being able to drink water on demand stayed with her.
Now, at age 14, she is advocating for water conservation and indigenous water rights in Canada. Her activism has resulted in fixes that allowed 87 long-term water advisories in Canada to be lifted, although there are still 56 water advisories to go. She also fights to connect people to the spirit and importance of water.
Ridhima Pandey, 9, India
Ridhima was only 9 years old when she filed a lawsuit against the Indian government for failing to take action against climate change. The lawsuit is a direct result of her family being displaced by the Uttarakhand’s floods in 2013.
Nina Gualinga, 24, Brazil
Nina is an indigenous activist from the Ecuadorian Amazon who has been fighting for sustainability since the age of eight. In 2018, she won WWF’s top youth conservation award. She now works relentlessly to protect the Amazon and the communities who live in it from unsustainable use and exploitation.
Isra Hirsi, 16, United States
Isra’s drive for climate action started when she witnessed pipelines being built in Minnesota and heard about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan in 2014. She has since co-founded the US Youth Climate Strike, which is an American branch of the international movement inspired by GT. She also advocates for underrepresented groups affected by climate change.
You can make a difference. Here’s how:
“Its only one straw.”– 8 billion people
Don’t be one of those people who thinks they can’t do anything to have an impact. Look at what these young women activists around the world have been able to achieve so far. If they can make a difference, so can you!
Change your commute
According to the EPA, Americans spend 90% of their day indoors on average. This means that oftentimes, the only time you actually get fresh air is during your commute. So why not make the most out of that 10%?
In an extreme example, a man from Germany named Benjamin David is making the most of his commute by swimming about a mile down river to work everyday. Although that option is not available for most, there are a few ways you can reduce your climate impact while spending more time outdoors:
- Bike to work when the weather allows
- Carpool with co-workers
- Take advantage of public transportation
These types of small changes can add up to a big difference, especially when if comes to infrastructure.
For example, if the Department of Transportation, who tracks mobility usage, notices that there are a lot more bicyclists on the road, they’ll recommend that more bike lanes be installed. Where there are a lot of pedestrians, they’ll put rules and infrastructure in place to keep the streets and sidewalks safe, etc.
Your tax dollars are going towards public infrastructure, so why not reduce the mileage on your car, and take back your time with alternative commute. Plus, you’ll be helping the environment by choosing less GHG intensive options than driving.
Eat less red meat
The last time you went to the grocery store, did you consider what it took for that piece of red meat to get to you? It starts with growing grain for feeding the cows, processing that grain, and transporting it to the farms.
Once the cows are ready to be slaughtered, they are transported to the slaughterhouse where the final product is put into a refrigerated truck and delivered to the store.
Long story short, it costs 1,800 US gallons of water to make 1 pound of beef. That amounts to around 15,030 pounds—the weight of 5 compact cars.
You don’t have to give up red meat entirely (I know I won’t), but eating less of it is good for the planet.
Only use heating and cooling systems when needed
Humans survived for thousands of years without heating and cooling systems, and so will you, even if the temperature isn’t exactly 72 degrees.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t use adjust the temperature on cold nights or sweltering summer days, but living in climate that may be 2 to 3 degrees from an “ideal” 72 can actually save a substantial amount of energy.
President Carter reminded us back in 1977 that we can always put on a sweater if we get too cold!
Use Less Water & Retrofit Your Water Fixtures
The more water you use, the more energy you use, which means you’re emitting more GHGs. Simply put, it takes a lot of energy to pump, heat, and treat water.
By taking shorter showers, turning off the tap when you don’t need it, washing full loads of laundry, you can reduce your water, energy, and GHG footprint all at the same time.
You can also retrofit your fixtures. The EPA estimates that if just one out of every 100 American homes were retrofitted with water-efficient fixtures, about 100 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year would be saved—avoiding 80,000 tons of global warming pollution.
Shop Used Clothes
You don’t have to give up buying new clothes completely, but every now and then, it’s great to shop at used clothing stores.
Why? Because fast fashion is grossly unsustainable. Americans alone produced 15.1 million tons of textile waste in 2013, and around 85 percent of that ended up in landfills.
Use your voice—its powerful
The best form of marketing is word of mouth. Speak about the small, easy sustainable improvements mentioned in this post to your friends, family, and acquaintances.
You can even go a step further and voice your concerns directly to elected officials. By doing so, you’re sending a direct message to them that you care about climate change, and that you expect them to act now.
Additionally, you can also call your representatives to encourage congress to regulate the carbon market, which is the biggest hurdle we as a global community have not figured out.
The UN Climate Change Conference 2019
“The international community lost an important opportunity to show increased ambition on mitigation, adaptation & finance to tackle the climate crisis. But we must not give up, and I will not give up.”U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres
The recent UN Climate Change Conference was an important milestone in the fight against climate change. Over 200 representatives from around the world gathered in Madrid to hammer out plans to meet major deadlines set by the Paris Agreement, particularly around how to regulate carbon markets. Though the summit went on 48 hours longer than past COP summits, no decisive conclusion was reached.
Inaction this late in the game threatens to expose 350 million people to drought and push roughly 120 million people into extreme poverty by 2030.
This is a strong example of science clashing with elected officials in action. In my mind, the solution is easy: a healthy planet is a healthy economy, not the other way around.
When representatives finally realize this and act to protect our planet with scientific results, then we’ll have a fighting chance.
The failure to come up with a plan at this conference represents something much larger and scarier, as outlined by Helen Mountford:
“This reflects how disconnected many national leaders are from the urgency of the science and the demands of their citizens. They need to wake up in 2020.”Helen Mountford, Vice President for Climate and Economics at World Resources Institute
The power of the collective voice
“When you are a leader and every week you have young people demonstrating with such a message, you cannot remain neutral…they helped me change.”Emmanuel Macron, President of France
Though the results of the UN Climate Conference in Madrid were disappointing, many positive results have come from the collective voice of passionate people doing what they can to fight against climate change this year:
- More than 60 countries have pledged to have a net carbon footprint of zero by 2050.
- Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) investing is estimated at over $20 trillion in assets.
- China is now home to roughly 45% of the electric cars and 99% of the electric buses in the world.
- Transparency! More than 300 firms on the S&P 500 index now report their greenhouse gas inventories every year to the Carbon Disclosure Project.
- In Austria, the Green Party more than tripled its support, and the leader of the Social Democrats attributed it to Thunberg.
- Corporate commitments to sustainable growth and net-zero emissions are on the rise.
- Lyst has reported a 47% increase in shoppers looking for items that have ethical and style credentials such as “vegan leather” and “organic cotton”.
- Oscar-winning actress Jane Fonda was arrested for protesting climate change outside the United States Capitol showing that Leo isn’t the only A-List start fighting for change.
You are smart, you are kind, you are important
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