Greta Thunberg is a hero, but she shouldn’t have to be
Greta Thunberg is undeniably a legend. She’s the picture-perfect image of a young teenage girl in a young-adult dystopian novel, rising up to fight against a corrupt government and save the world. She’s everything I aspire to be and more.
But she shouldn’t have to be.
Time and time again, we see young people just like Thunberg – children and teenagers who are simply trying to live their ordinary lives – who are suddenly placed in devastating circumstances. Sometimes these circumstances appear out of nowhere, such as a school shooting. Others occur over time, accumulating slowly until they burst with disaster, such as an invasive oil pipeline being built, local water slowly filling with lead or the global climate crisis becoming increasingly more dire. However, as the world watches these problems appear one after another, the people who are expected to take action – the adults, the legislators – sit idly by. Who, then, rises out of the dust? The only people we have left: the children.
In the case of the horrific Parkland shooting in February of 2018, teenagers like David Hogg had to rise out of their pain and trauma to become national activists, fighting for their right to live without fear.
In the case of the Dakota Access Pipeline back in 2016 and 2017, a group of youth activists known as the One Mind Youth Movement arose, fighting for the safety of their homeland.
In the case of Flint, Michigan, back in 2014, Mari “Little Miss Flint” Copeny stood up to fight for her right to drink clean water. At only 11, she is still continuing to fight to this day to gain the clean and safe water that her community still hasn’t received.
And finally, in the case of our global climate emergency, Thunberg stands tall at 16, calling out with power and urgency for the world to make a change so that she may live to see her own adulthood on a habitable Earth.
These children are admirable, they are determined, they are young fighters pouring their all into everything they believe in. But they are still just that: children.
Thunberg herself recently spoke at the United Nations Climate Action Summit, which took place in New York City this past Monday, Sept. 23. In her speech, she sent out an awe-inspiring cry for action, demanding change to fix our climate and rightfully calling out the legislators surrounding her who have failed to take action. To a room full of these captivated yet actionless adults she exclaimed, “This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you!”
We are the children of a dying world. Growing up in a society that has normalized gun violence, dehumanized Native Americans, stripped black communities of their basic rights and left the planet itself to rot, ignorance and inaction are not options for us. Dreams of great careers and retirement plans dwindle away and are replaced with a new dream: survival.
So to those legislators, officials and adults of all kinds who refuse to acknowledge the terrors of our nation and our world, who are so engrossed in the fantasies of ignorance that have followed them since their own childhood, in the words of a child who is wiser than you will ever be: how dare you.
Leah DeHaemer is a freshman video/television and film major from Massachusetts who hopes to minor in journalism.