Climate change activism: From Guthrie to Greta
I spent Earth Day in Tulsa, where I celebrated our planet with the good people of Oklahoma at Guthrie Green, a park and performance space right in the heart of town. This beautiful park’s named for a great Oklahoma poet and activist who directly inspired at least one Nobel laureate (not to mention The Boss), but for this Earth Day I want to shine a light on someone who deserves a Nobel Prize right now: the awesome Swedish high school student Greta Thunberg, who has inspired millions of people, young and old, with her principled protest calling for climate action.
By Michael Brune
Here’s an excerpt from the Sierra Club’s letter to the Nobel Committee, in support of Greta’s nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize:
Thunberg first took to the streets, alone, in front of the Swedish Parliament on 20 August 2018. During the three weeks leading up to a parliamentary election, she spent every day during school hours outside Parliament House to protest the government’s inadequate action on climate change. Unsatisfied with the election results, Thunberg then continued her strike, returning every Friday during school hours.
Appearing at a UN climate conference in Poland in December 2018, Thunberg told world leaders that, “Since our leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago.” Since then, participation in the “strike for climate movement” has surged globally. Her compelling speech inspired students on every continent to join her in skipping class on Fridays. Now, youth-led strikes and marches are happening weekly, and during a global day of action on 15 March 2019, an estimated 1.4 million students in 112 countries joined her by striking for climate action.
But the school strikes for climate are only the most conspicuous evidence of Thunberg’s extraordinary influence. She is an inspiration to both young and old to call for climate action. In the United States, a Youth Climate Strike movement is planning new protests for this May, and many of those youth have pledged to vote for candidates who will act on climate when they become adults. A Sunrise Movement of young people is gathering pledges from U.S. politicians to support an equitable transition to 100% clean energy. Meanwhile, parents, grandparents, and anyone concerned about a just, equitable, and healthy future are joining the fight and demanding swift climate action from their elected officials.
Awarding Greta Thunberg the Nobel Peace Prize would align with the award’s tradition of recognizing leaders who have the vision to confront global crises in spite of seemingly insurmountable odds. Thunberg is a leader of today and tomorrow who has made her voice heard clearly around the world and refused to accept that tragedy is inevitable. Her courage and determination have helped build a global movement. And yet, she is only in high school.
I hope you had a great Earth Day – outdoors if possible – and that we can all bring even a fraction of Greta’s dedication to protecting our planet.