The United Nations Assembly is being held in New York City, and on Monday 16-year old Greta Thunberg delivered her passionate plea to the Assembly on addressing climate change. While many have applauded her effort, she’s had her detractors as well. I realize that people all over have their opinions about climate change. I’ll keep my commentary on that to myself since it’s a futile effort any way. Rather, let me address this question:
Why would anyone stifle or even ridicule a 16-year old for standing up for what she passionately believes in?
I don’t have a daughter yet, but I hope so, God-willing. If she ends up taking a place in my life, my hope for her is that I raise her right. By raising her right I mean, I hope I raise her to stand up for what she believes in. I hope she commits to something in this life that matters so much to her that she’s willing to spend countless hours researching and becoming knowledgeable on the topic. I hope she makes phone calls to adults in positions of power and privilege and isn’t intimidated by them. I hope she “walks the talk,” kind of like taking a 2-week sailboat voyage across the Atlantic because it’s ecologically responsible. I hope she sees that she has incredible agency and has the strength and courage to exercise it, even when no one is behind her – including me, perhaps.
I hope my daughter ends up like Greta Thunberg.
The more troublesome issue isn’t that a kid is standing up for a “made up” or “insignificant” cause. The disturbing thing is that adults, many of whom rant about how younger generations have no integrity, don’t stand for anything, and don’t take the time to do the work to make changes happen, then turn around and ridicule a young woman who decides to do so. Or we patronize them by vainly applauding their effort but not listening to their words or even thinking they don’t have anything to offer in the way of making the world better and being part of taking responsibility for it.
You may not believe in climate change. You might think her efforts are futile themselves or that she’s simply delusional. That’s your opinion. But what you or I cannot question is her integrity, her sense of personal accountability, her conviction, and her strength of heart. What you or I don’t have the right to do is discourage her to act on her convictions simply because of our opinion.
As I get older, I get more cynical and are wiling to take less risks. That’s just the way of the world, as I’ve experienced it – tragic as that may be.
What I can do is support young people who are not yet where I’m at in life. In fact, I think that’s my obligation: to foster and encourage a strength of character for the young women and men – the Greta Thunbergs out there – within my sphere of influence.
For my future daughter.
All of us adults have an obligation to do that same.