SWEDISH teenage activist, 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, was recently announced as the winner of a global human rights award. She was said to have inspired millions of school students to protest for climate change with a growing movement demanding action on the issue.
By starting a weekly vigil outside the Parliament of Sweden last year, her action has spread far and wide globally. “You have to fight for what you think is right,” she was quoted as saying. Something that not many students of her age (even older) would be too concerned with especially if it is going to reduce their chances of scoring the “perfect” ace. In fact, they have just missed the chance to be educated in the “real” sense of the word.
More shockingly, she is bold enough to state, “The blatant injustice we need to fight against is that people in the global south (the emphasis is mine) are the ones who are and will be most affected by climate change, while they are the least responsible for causing it.” A fact of life that has been known by most but very few have the guts to tell it as it is!
I vividly recall at one high level United Nations forum on sustainable development where a Swedish minister admitted that someone who wants to live like the Swedes, must have the resource equivalent of three planets (for that matter it is similar for most of Western Europe; for North America, the number is five).
So Greta has done the world a great favour by explaining what the minister really meant then. And the wide ranging implications of the “blatant injustice” that she was referring to. Kudos! It has been long time waiting.
Now that the Pandora’s box has been cracked opened, the issues at hand are easier to analyse.
In a nutshell, as Greta succinctly put it, the case rotates around some “blatant (historical) injustices” that took place, and never put right, be it at the global or even local level, depending on the circumstances.
While many recognise that such disparities are acute, they are unable or unwilling to press on, never mind the victims of the injustices themselves. So the issues continue to revolve, despite that the “answers” are staring at our faces. That is, like all “injustices” there must be some measure to “neutralise” them through compensation, repatriation and anything of that order.
It is a question of rights for humanity which have been taken for granted (intentionally or otherwise).
To recognise this with the Ambassador of Conscience Award, from the well-respected organisation, Amnesty International is singularly significant. She and her “Fridays for Future” (3F) global movement join the likes of Nelson Mandela, the all-time hero for humanity, in creating hope for the future.
Aptly, the secretary-general of Amnesty International, Kumi Naidoo, remarked: “We are humbled and inspired by the determination with which youth activities across the world are challenging us all to confront the realities of the climate crisis.”
Indeed, the 3F has captured the imagination of school-going youth causing authorities to recognise their leadership role when adults are too busy with their own agenda. Carbon emissions continued to hit a new record high last year despite the many global promises made with a stern warning by the UN in October. Yet to no avail.
In other words, the younger generation must now be welcome to take the centrestage like how it was done in 1992 when a Canadian teenage activist, Severn Cullis-Suzuki, stunned (and even shamed) the largely adult and professional audience at the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio.
This was what she said: “Coming here today, I have no hidden agenda. I am fighting for my future. Losing my future is not like losing an election or a few points on the stock market.
“I am here to speak for all generations to come.”
She then asked: “Did you have to worry about all these things when you were my age? All this is happening before our eyes and yet we act as if we have all the time we want and all the solutions. I’m only a child and I don’t have the solutions. I don’t – I want you to realise, neither do you.”
This was more than 25 years ago, and today nothing much has changed. Time is running out and we still do not have all the solutions as the situations get worse.
It is only timely that Greta picks up the baton and presses forward to create the future that they want. The generations who have messed up the planet, must now pause and listen; and lend the utmost support to these young energetic children who are determined to correct the “blatant injustice” which has been denied for so long to the people of the global south.
No doubt this is the “answer” towards a lasting sustainable future that lies at the hands of the schoolgoing teenagers.
With some four decades of experience in education, the writer believes that “another world is possible”. Comments: email@example.com