Seeing Climate Change in Black and White

Of course, many of us thought the revolution would be televised contrary to how the song goes, but how many of us thought the environmental chutzpah necessary to inspire the world to “panic” about climate change would be led by a 16-year-old Swedish girl in braided pigtails? A young woman who told those gathered at the World Economic Forum earlier this year that the house is, in fact, on fire.

And no, Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, and the many young people like her, do not want hopes and prayers but rather action. Right now. As the short film, “Seven,” directed by Annalise Davis and embedded on the front page of Thunberg’s FridaysForFuture website earlier this month put it, it is “Time for the grown ups to be grown up.”

Young people around the world have been staging out-of-school protests to get all of our respective governing bodies to act immediately on our collective “climate emergency.” Some of what Thunberg and her fellow protestors want is for countries to meet and exceed The Paris Agreement, which aims to bring “all nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects, with enhanced support to assist developing countries.”

While President Trump announced almost two years ago that the United States would no longer be part of the 2015 Paris Agreement, that exit is not legal until the day after the 2020 Presidential elections. In fact, the 22 U.S. Senators who urged the President to abandon The Paris Agreement just so happen to receive large sums of money from big oil. According to The Guardian, these 22 people received over 10 million dollars in the past three election cycles from oil, gas, and coal companies.

Yet, despite how Washington works, where either party can be at the financial behest of big donors, a massive sea change of young people are showing the rest of the world that perhaps not all hope is lost.

On March 14, Thunberg was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Should Thunberg win for her activism to get more countries to hold global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, she will be the youngest person ever to have received the award. Malala Yousafzai, who was a co-recipient for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, was then 17.

Thunberg, who also has Asperger’s, confessed in her 11-minute TED Talk earlier this year, that, for her and many others, halting climate change is a black-and-white issue, contrary to what others might tell us.

“We aren’t very good at lying, and we usually don’t enjoy participating in this social game that the rest of you seem so fond of,” Thunberg deadpans. “I think in many ways we autistic are the normal ones, and the rest of the people are pretty strange, especially when it comes to the sustainability crisis, where everyone keeps saying climate change is an existential threat and the most important issue of all, and yet they just carry on like before.”

“I don’t understand that,” she continues. “If the emissions have to stop, then we must stop the emissions. To me, that is black or white. There are no gray areas when it comes to survival.”

“Either we go on as a civilization, or we don’t.”