The Tide’s View: Greta Thunberg forces the world to pay attention to climate change


Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons | Graphic by Valerie Wang

Swedish teen and environmental activist Greta Thunberg has captured international attention.

The Tide Editorial Board

The cries of millions of people are heard every day across the world. Rallies and protests have become popular as the younger generation begins to fight for what they believe is right. On Sept. 23, youth activist Greta Thunberg, known as one of the leaders of the climate movement, addressed the U.N.’s Climate Action Summit in New York City. Passionate and powerful, her speech provoked responses demonstrating how climate strikes can make a difference.

Unfortunately, there has been some obnoxious and unnecessary criticism towards Thunberg and her appearance at the U.N., ranging from direct insults on her intelligence, with Fox News guest speaker Michael Knowles. ranging from calling her mentally ill to mocking tweets paired with a video of visibly upset Thunberg with President Trump calling her a “very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future.” Though these right-wing media personalities, politicians, and climate skeptics may not agree with Thunberg’s sentiments or course of action, their acknowledgment demonstrates the widespread attention her speech is now receiving.

Although several climate strikes have occurred before, Thunberg’s speech was special since it captured the attention of millions of people all at once. Junior Michelle Zhao said, “Greta’s speech spread a lot of movement within the liberal parties around the world.” Outlining the stakes of inaction on the climate crisis and denouncing the world’s focus on “money and fairytales of eternal economic growth,” Thunberg made clear to the world her intentions of taking action over her future.

Speaking to the assembled world leaders, Thunberg’s remarks inspire leadership and courage across the world. According to a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll, roughly one in four teenagers have taken action this year, whether it be attending a protest, participating in a walkout or writing to a public official. This is clearly an extraordinary level of activism for a group who mostly cannot vote yet. It is clear that if current politicians fail to enact policy that mitigates climate change, our generation has the energy to bring a fresh wave of leadership.

Sophomore Lulu August said, “A global youth climate strike is more effective in that there are people all around the world, especially young people, gathering together to advocate for this topic.” Young people are key to the future of politics. A Chicago Council Survey found that more than half of voters aged 18-29 believe that climate change is a critical threat. The youth are already living with the consequences of global climate change, which include forced migration, food scarcity, drought, rising sea levels, extreme weather and toxic contamination of water catchments. This generation plus future ones will make up the new voter base and politicians must change their stances on these issues if they want to keep up with the quickly changing political climate. As a result, older generations should be less dismissive when the new generation begins to speak up.

Climate strikes do not only affect politicians. They can shift public opinion as well. According to a Chicago Council Survey, there has been an increase from 2017 to 2019 in the percentage of people across political affiliations that believe climate change is a critical threat. Many climate protests have occurred around this time and the statistics suggests that rallies definitely sway the public’s beliefs. By influencing public opinion, politicians’ opinions will shift to align with their constituents.

Too many of the world’s leaders—political, corporate, and civic—are collectively robbing the world’s youth of their futures. This has gone to the point where the youth of the world have been forced to take the call to action to save their future. Hundreds of youth movements have occurred every year, but Greta Thunberg’s display at the U.N. summit focused and amplified the prevalence and importance of a dire issue. A difference can be made, and in Thunberg’s words, “The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not.”