The ice caps are melting, sea levels are rising, and the global temperature is increasing; the evidence of climate change is overwhelming and evident. There have been multiple climate-conscious initiatives in recent years, and most recently: climate strikes. Scientists, climate activists, and increasingly, the general public are pleading with governments across the globe to take climate change seriously and begin implementing reforms.
At the forefront of this is 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, a Swedish high schooler and environmental activist. She is known for her passionate and poignant, if blunt, speeches, calling out big government and fossil fuel companies for their lack of action.
Thunberg has a point; her facts are straight, her passion is evident, and her ideas grand. However, her platform is one of privilege, as she has the ability and means to leave school and travel the world — privilege in nature. It also exacerbates the political divide over climate change, becoming a tool for more divisive politics, and in turn reducing the efficacy of policy implementation.
Left and right politics surrounding climate change is polarized. Patrick T. Brown, a climate scientist writes, “If it is an empirical and scientific matter … then why is opinion so firmly divided along political lines.” The left has looked to Thunberg as a hero — a martyr for climate change. Now, seemingly, anything the left supports the right disagrees with, and vice-versa. Michael Knowles of Fox News stated, “Thunberg is a mentally ill Swedish child who is being exploited by her parents and the international left.” While Thunberg is not responsible for the polarization of the two sides, she is becoming an emblem of division, which turns away focus from her main goal — attention and reform. While this is not Thunberg’s fault, per say, there should be an even concerted effort to meet with climate change activists, no matter their political party.
The entire future of the world should not be put on the shoulders of a 16-year-old. She points this out in her speeches saying, “I shouldn’t be here. I should be in school.” Which is true, she should be in school. By skipping school, she is privileged in her platform of “encourage others to skip school to get what they want” and also cheapens the value of the message.
Leaving school to travel the world is a privilege. According to UNESCO, 263 million children are not in school. It is important to understand that so much can be done from school — voices are not only heard but cultivated. By leaving school, however, she is taking away the opportunity to show that she can teach and be taught, as well as the fact that school is so important to overall growth. I understand the essence of her argument for leaving school: why would I go to school if I there is no world for my education to be used? But wouldn’t you want to go to school to show that you are fighting for your future?