Why Nature Needs Champions Like Greta Thunberg

Greta Thunberg, the Swedish schoolgirl and climate activist, was unheard of two years ago; now she’s a household name. In that time, she’s received the Time Person of the Year award, the Gulbenkian Prize for Humanity, and even two Nobel Peace Prize nominations. And she’s not even eighteen years old.

Despite her youth, however, she’s managed to have an effect few adults have ever had. She’s met numerous world leaders, including Justin Trudeau, Angela Merkel, Christine Lagarde, and Barack Obama. She’s spearheaded climate protest marches around the world. And she’s shifted the cultural discourse from one of impending climate change to that of immediate climate crisis.

On this basis, it’s clear to see that her impact on our culture has been considerable, especially for someone who’s neither an adult, nor rich, nor famous. And this impact has been largely beneficial — despite the dire nature of her warnings — precisely because she’s awakened so many people to the need for a solution to the climate crisis we face.

But of course she’s only one person, and one person will never be enough to change the world. Which is why it’s imperative for more people to step up to the plate and become champions of nature, just like Greta Thunberg. And here are four reasons why.

Forest burns in Brazil's Amazon.
A forest fire burns in Altamira in Brazil’s Amazon. (Leo Correa/AP)

Nature Is Being Destroyed

Most people are aware by now that climate change is real. They may be unsure about exactly how it works or the degree to which it has already occurred. But they understand that things are changing around the world — from patterns of precipitation, to temperature highs and lows, to bird migrations, to extinctions.

But of course nature is being destroyed in many other ways as well. Air pollution is increasing, making many environments dangerous or uninhabitable, especially for the very young and old. Plastics are filling our oceans and killing aquatic species at unprecedented rates. Pesticides and carcinogens are pouring into our foods and poisoning our children.

In addition, crucial habitats are being destroyed around the world, causing extinctions and outbreaks of zoonotic diseases. Food prices are soaring as a result of increasing climatic instability. Poor people are being forced to migrate from their home countries due to internal conflict created or exacerbated by famine and drought. And the availability of clean water is rapidly declining, spelling imminent disaster for many communities.

World Leaders at G20.
World Leaders at G20. (Ricardo Mazalan/AP)

Our Leaders Are Complicit

Despite the horrifying state of nature, our leaders are either unwilling or unable to do the right thing. On the contrary, they are part of the problem.

This can be seen in many ways with our political leaders. President Donald Trump has systematically gutted major protections for the environment, workers, and communities of color in subservience to corporate interests. Chinese President Xi Jinping has funded the construction of numerous heavily-polluting coal power plants around the world through his Belt and Road Initiative. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has spent $3.4 billion on the Trans Mountain Pipeline, which has persistently trampled the rights of First Nations and accelerated deforestation and pollution in Alberta. And German Chancellor Angela Merkel has supported the continuing use of heavily-polluting diesel and coal energy in her country, despite a reputation for favoring green energy initiatives.

And business leaders are no better. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has repeatedly allowed the posting of misinformation about the climate crisis and white supremacy, despite claiming publicly to have an interest in clean energy and equality. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has invested heavily in nuclear energy through TerraPower LLC, despite full awareness of the devastating track record of nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl and Fukushima. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has given significant computing power to oil and gas companies like BP and Shell and simultaneously threatened to fire employees who spoke out about his company’s hypocrisy.

From this cursory analysis, it should be apparent that our business and political leaders are about as trustworthy as a gang of armed robbers in a bank vault.

Northern white rhino with anti-poaching forces.
Northern white rhino with anti-poaching forces. (Brent Stirton/Getty – Nat Geo Image Collection)

We Must Stop the Destruction

If we can’t depend on our leaders to solve the problem — which they created in the first place — then we must put a stop to it ourselves.

There are many ways to do this. Boycotting polluting industries can be effective if there is a broad base of support over a long period of time. Lobbying legislators can be effective if there are well-connected insiders who are committed to the cause of climate justice. Supporting indigenous communities can be effective if those communities are in a position to exercise autonomy over their own affairs. Economic blockades can be effective if there is sufficient political will to stop the production and use of fossil fuels.

Unfortunately, however, these tactics are likely to be too little, too late. Which means that we must be willing to take whatever steps are necessary to stop the destruction, even if those steps would otherwise be unpalatable to us. Whether that means taking up arms, dismantling extractive infrastructure, disabling telecommunications, or declaring independence from fossil fuel-dependent states, we need to be considering all available options.

Sunset from Occoneechee Overlook.
Sunset from Occoneechee Mountain. (Mark Miles/Mark All My Words)

Our Future Depends on It

While the scale of the problem that confronts us is huge, the scale of the reward for solving it is equally huge.

If we do something now, then we may be able to save what’s left of the world’s rainforests, coral reefs, and arctic poles. We may be able to avert hugely destabilizing sea level rises, mass migrations, global famine, and even world war. We may be able to look forward to a future for our children and grandchildren that will be more than pain, suffering, and premature death on a planet whose days are numbered.

If not, then we should have our funeral arrangements ready.

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3 thoughts on “Why Nature Needs Champions Like Greta Thunberg

  1. I do not think the Trans Mountain pipeline situation is as simple as it seems when you write the highlights. That does not mean I am in agreement with all that has happened. TMX is actually replacing an existing pipeline with a larger one that will carry more product safely to market. The current pipeline is nearing end of life and does not have the latest in leak detection technology. Elected chiefs of the First Nations were consulted in great detail and approved the project, but, then the hereditary chiefs got involve from a few nations. They were consulted with and changes made, so the project could proceed. The alternative to this pipeline is more frequent and longer oil tanker trains rumbling through the mountains. An asinine transport method was recently used to prove what could be done. Oil went through the pipeline to Burnaby, was loaded on a tanker, which then went down the West Coast, transited the Panama Canal and then went up the East Coast to St. John, New Brunswick to the Irving refinery. I hope this does not become the norm. The truth of the matter is that we need to get off petro and as Greta advocates, it needs to be done over a period of time to allow for alternate energy sources and job transition to avert a different kind of human disaster. We attended the Greta rally in Edmonton and were impressed with her thoughtfulness and candor and even she says the transition can not happen overnight. Not sure about you, but, I can not yet heat my home in our -30C winters with nuclear yet. For too long, U.S. financial interests have been funding the protestors. That in itself, is good, until you realize the end goal was to keep Canadian oil locked in until all American oil could be developed and sold. And don’t even get me started on fracking being used in the Dakotas and other places. Greed powers the world right now and if oil can be used to develop new tech to save the planet and humanity, I am all for it, but, like coal, it must be phased out. But wait, the U.S. and Canada are again expanding mining and sale of coal. And, so it spins. Stay well Mark. Allan

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