We are living through some scary times. As Greta has told us so often: “Our house is on fire.” And I firmly believe that there are three things that have to align if we are going to douse the flames. First, we need the courage to dream of a different kind of future. To shake off the sense of inevitable apocalypse that has pervaded our culture. To give us a destination, a common goal, a picture of the world we are working towards.
But those dreams are useless unless we are willing to embrace the other two forces. One is the need to confront the truth of our moment in history — the truth of how much we have already lost and of how much more we are on the brink of losing if we do not embrace revolutionary levels of change.
The other thing we have to do is this: We have find our fight. We have to come together across differences and build credible, unshakable power. In the face of the fires roiling our world, we have to find our own fire. Truth and fire.
Greta Thunberg is one of the great truth-tellers of this or any time. Let me refresh your memories about some of her most iconic lines. To the U.N. climate negotiators in Poland last December, she said: “You are not mature enough to tell it like it is. Even that burden you leave to us children.”
To the British MPs who asked her to speak, she asked, “Is my English OK? Is the microphone on? Because I’m beginning to wonder.”
To the rich and mighty at Davos who praised her for giving them hope, she replied, “I don’t want your hope. … I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if the house is on fire, because it is.”
She also told them that not everyone is to blame for the climate crisis. No, she looked them in the eye and said that they were to blame. And we will always love her for that.
But Greta is not all talk. All of this began with action. It began when Greta realized, one year and one month ago, that if she wanted powerful politicians to put themselves on emergency footing to fight climate change, then she needed to reflect that state of emergency in her own life. And so she stopped doing the one thing all kids are supposed to do when everything is normal: Go to school to prepare for their future as adults.
Instead, she stationed herself outside of Sweden’s parliament with a handmade sign that said simply: “School Strike for the Climate.” She started doing it every Friday, and pretty soon she attracted a small crowd. Then other students started doing it in other cities as well.
Students like Alexandria Villaseñor, who stations herself outside the United Nations in this city every Friday, week after week, rain, snow or shine. Sometimes the student climate strikes were just one lonely kid. Sometimes tens of thousands showed up.
And then, on March 15, came the first Global School Strike for Climate. Over 2,000 strikes in 125 countries, with 1.6 million young people participating on a single day. 1.6 million people. That’s quite an achievement for a movement that began just eight months earlier with a single 15-year-old girl in Stockholm, Sweden.
And now this movement is gearing up for its biggest challenge yet: They have called on people of all ages to join the and go on strike, all around the world, on September 20. Because protecting the future is not a spectator sport.
Thunberg and the many other amazing young organizers have been very clear that they do not want adults to pat them on the head and thank them for the hope infusion. They want us to join them and fight for the future alongside them. Because it is their right. And all of our duty.