Photo of a demonstration on climate with greta surrounded by other young people.

What to learn from Greta Thunberg

In less than three years, Greta Thunberg has turned from a teenager protesting alone in front of the Swedish national Parliament to a globally renowned figure, who started a worldwide movement of young climate activists and spoke “truth to power” in front of the highest level politicians. Greta became a symbol of how young people are driving the movement to stop the climate emergency and has been an inspiration for students in Europe and all around the world.

We can’t all start a global movement like Greta did. Though, we can learn a lot from her activism.

Politicians, and adults in general, are not superior to you

Something extremely charming, unsettling and powerful about Greta is her total lack of awe and deference in front of high-level politicians. We are trained to feel inferior to people in power, but in fact politicians are elected to represent, and serve, us as the citizens. Greta seems to have understood this very well, and does not hesitate to address politicians with strong words. Her line in a speech at the European institutions “we know that most politicians don’t want to talk to us. Good. We don’t want to talk to them either. We want them to talk to the scientists instead,” became iconic. Many young spokespersons of Fridays for Future have adopted a similar bold style, teaching us that we don’t need to be deferential in front of politicians, but speak our truth.

Don’t settle for half results

Politics is about compromise, but as an activist you can continue calling politicians for greater ambition. Greta has continued doing that. While EU leaders were patting each other’s shoulders on some trail-blazing climate initiatives, Greta kept telling them that it was not enough. Greta called the ambitious EU Climate Law a “surrender”. She is also quick at calling out half-hearted and cosmetic commitments for the planet, as in the case of the negotiations on the Common Agricultural Policy, when she said “MEPs are more than happy to vote for targets set ten or twenty years in the future, but when it is something to impact right here, right now, they won’t touch it”.

Create a sense of urgency

When campaigning, people need to feel that your cause matters. Greta has done this at the absolute best. Let’s just think of her words at the Davos World Economic Forum: “adults keep saying we own to the young people to give them hope but I don’t want your hope, I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic, I want you to feel the fear I feel every day and then I want you to act as if our house is on fire because it is”.

None is too small to change things

Many of us felt inspired and compelled by the story of Greta, because it demonstrated that a common teenager can start a global movement and bring about real change. Even though not everyone of us can be a full time activist and lead a worldwide movement, we can still learn from her not to be intimidated by those who tell us that change is not possible and that we are powerless.

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