For many years scientists have been forecasting a world-shattering climate catastrophe, and yet world leaders, politicians, and corporate executives have paid little or no heed to concrete signs of this crisis -- melting icebergs, forest wildfires, food shortages, increased air and water pollution, violent weather patterns, droughts, and species extinction. But the young people have noticed.
We first meet 15-year-old Greta Thunberg when she is sitting on the ground in a "solo school strike" in front of the Swedish parliament. She has decided to do all she can to save the planet. Soon other youth join her for Fridays for Future strikes and demonstrations. The movement spreads across the world.
Greta contends that all of us are responsible for what happens to the Earth and that means making the right choices and then having the patience and perseverance to act on them. For example, she has stopping eating meat and diary, stopped flying, and stopped buying things.
As word of her activism and commitment spreads, Greta is asked to speak about climate justice at various European assemblies, marches, and the United Nations. She has up-close and personal talks with Pope Francis and French President Emmanuel Macron. In 2019, this zealous crusader for the health and well-being of the planet participated in protests in 150 countries.
Greta chides adults, telling them, "We have started to clean up your mess and we won't stop." She complains that "Humanity sees nature as this big bowl of candy and thinks they can take what they want." But she also displays humility and generosity. When a reporter points to a huge crowd of young people and declares, "They're here for you," she replies "They're here for themselves, for everybody."
All of this activity wears on Greta, especially when the media attacks her and her family gets death threats. In a poignant moment during her cross-Atlantic boat trip to New York to speak at the U.N., Nathan Grossman captures her vulnerability. She admits it's all too much, it's around the clock, yet she stills feels a deep responsibility to go on.
We, along with many others we're sure, can empathize with these feelings. When she then gets up and returns to the spotlight, unafraid to declare her disappointment in the lack of progress, our tears flowed as we witnessed her courage and resilience.
We see and respect Greta as a prophet in our time. She is speaking truth to power. Her words to the United Nations echo in our hearts:
"You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I'm one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you! . . .
"How dare you pretend that this can be solved with just 'business as usual' and some technical solutions. . . .
"You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say: We will never forgive you.
"We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line. The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not."