Climate strikes and marches were held across the world throughout September and Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, was at the helm.
Thunberg made several passionate statements during her time in New York, including the following impactful quote from her speech at the U.N. Climate Action Summit: “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!”
It’s incredible to watch Greta and the world’s reaction to her – grown men attacking a child because they don’t want to sacrifice their own wealth. The science is undeniable and the results of climate change are happening right now, irreversibly.
Climate change is an issue so intertwined with issues of poverty and human rights, and our collective obsession with money is a root cause of the state of our environment.
Beyond the issue of our rapidly changing climate, the rallies have highlighted several other issues. The paramount ones being our societal tendency to pacify and condescend to young women, as well as our tendency to ignore people of colour in favour of white activists.
Let us not forget that Indigenous people and their children have always been advocates for the environment; and yet we are so much more willing to accept the message when it comes from a white girl.
It is vital that we invest in Indigenous people as equally as we invest in climate justice. Indigenous folks are the original land and water protectors, as well as the original inhabitants of the land we have destroyed. Colonialism and climate change are intricately related and violent colonization brought with it a violent relationship to our Earth.
Autumn Peltier, Mari Copeny, and Xiye Bastida are just three influential young women of colour who have been at the forefront of the climate change movement for years. We should include their names in climate conversation.
Greta, not unlike Malala Yousafzai and other young, female activists, are fawned over but not actually listened to. Thunberg has explicitly stated that she wants action. She does not want your hope, your prizes, or your adoration. She wants change.
And yet, the same politicians and pundits who praise her on social media are the people who hold the power to make change, and instead sit idly by.
Our inability to treat young women with respect or regard Indigenous people and other people of colour as climate experts, and the causes of our climate crisis are linked; they are all a result of an uneven distribution of power.
How can we redistribute that power? By acting.
I am hopeful that with young people like Greta, Indigenous communities, and local activists at the helm, change will come eventually. Activism works, so act.
Jennifer Hamilton is a local student and writer.