Film Club: ‘Greta Thunberg Has Given Up on Politicians’

In this short video, the 18-year-old Swedish activist argues that we can’t look to politicians to solve the climate crisis; instead, she says, it’s “up to you and me.” What gives you hope in the fight against climate change?,

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Greta Thunberg Has Given Up on Politicians

“All political and economic systems have failed, but humanity has not yet failed.”

So why are you striking? I’m striking for us to take the climate crisis seriously and treat it like a crisis. Yes, but what do you want the politicians to do? I want them to listen to and act on the science. How are we going to solve this climate issue? Just the fact that this question is asked to me, a teenager, over and over is absurd but not as absurd as the fact that the climate and ecological emergency is being reduced to a problem that needs to be fixed. This is the biggest crisis humanity has ever faced. We demand a safe future. Is that really too much to ask? I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. All political and economic systems have failed, but humanity has not yet failed. A year before my U.N. speech, the thought of seeing pictures of myself everywhere would have been unthinkable. If you would care about this kind of attention, then you’d probably develop a self-image that is far from sane. Presidents, prime ministers, kings and princesses suddenly see their opportunity to get a selfie, which later they can post on their Instagram with the caption hashtag #savetheplanet. Perhaps it makes them forget the shame of their generation letting all future generations down. “You all come to us young people for hope. How dare you! You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. Yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. And all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!” “And if you choose to fail us, I say we will never forgive you. The world is waking up. And change is coming whether you like it or not.” On the subway home, some come forward to congratulate me. Someone suggests that we should celebrate. But I don’t understand what their congratulations are for. And I understand even less what we’re supposed to be celebrating. Yet another meeting is over. And all that is left are empty words. It gets a bit repetitive after a while. Politicians are pretty much the same no matter where you are in the world. I urged them to listen to the science and act now before it’s too late. They say that they think it’s so amazing that I’m so active and committed and that, when I grow up, I too can become a politician and make a real difference. I then explain that when I’ve grown up, it will be too late to act if we are to stay below the 1.5 or even 2 degree Celsius target. Then they laugh nervously and start talking about something else. Washington, D.C. I’m called to testify in the U.S. Congress. “I am submitting this report as my testimony because I don’t want you to listen to me. I want you to listen to the scientists. Thank you.” In the latest update from the I.P.C.C., scientists underline keeping the global temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees Celsius. We have today already passed about 1.2 degrees of global heating. On January 1, 2018, we had 420 gigatons of CO2 left to emit globally. This is the carbon budget which gives us the best odds of staying below the 1.5 degree target. We emit about 42 gigatons of CO2 every year. So today, the world is down to lower than 280 gigatons of CO2 left. That is the equivalent of less than six and a half years of today’s business-as-usual emissions until that budget completely runs out. Do you remember “Gangnam Style”? That happened about eight years ago. That’s longer than the amount of time we are talking about. And that is to give us the best possible chance to avoid passing tipping points or feedback loops, irreversible chain reactions beyond human control. The climate crisis is not a fair crisis. The ones who’ll be hit hardest from its consequences are often the ones who have done the least to cause the problem in the first place. The climate crisis cannot be solved within today’s political and economic systems. That’s not an opinion. That’s a fact. And since the truth is uncomfortable, unpopular and unprofitable, the truth doesn’t stand much of a chance. The emperors are naked, every single one. It turns out our whole society is just one big nudist party. “And if you belong to that small group of people who feel threatened by us, then we have some very bad news for you. This is only the beginning.” Every Friday, I continue to strike wherever I find myself to be at that moment. Everywhere, lots of people show up, people of all ages. We are facing the need to make changes which are unprecedented in human history. Things may look dark, but I’m telling you there is hope. And that hope comes from the people, from democracy, from you. “What do we want?” “Government action.” “When do we want it?” “Now!” We have passed a social tipping point. We can no longer look away from what our society has been ignoring for so long. It is an existential crisis. We must now do the seemingly impossible. And that is up to you and me because no one else will do it for us. But who really is Greta? I think people want to get to know Greta. I’m not important. This has got nothing to do with me. I’m simply doing this because no one else is doing it.

“All political and economic systems have failed, but humanity has not yet failed.”

By The Learning Network

Nov. 4, 2021, 7:44 a.m. ET

Greta Thunberg Has Given Up on Politicians” is an eight-minute film profiling the 18-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg who calls our climate and ecological emergency “the biggest crisis humanity has ever faced.”

In this animated Op-Doc video, Ms. Thunberg argues that the climate crisis cannot be solved within today’s political and economic systems. While she may have given up on presidents and prime ministers, kings and queens, politicians and leaders — their excuses, empty words and inaction — Ms. Thunberg has not given up on humanity. “It’s up to you and me,” she says. “No one else will do it for us.”

Do we believe that ordinary people around the globe have the power to create meaningful change? What gives you hope in the fight against climate change?

Students

1. Watch the short film above. While you watch, you might take notes using our Film Club Double-Entry Journal (PDF) to help you remember specific moments.

2. After watching, think about these questions:

What moments in this film stood out for you? Why?

Were there any surprises? Anything that challenged what you know — or thought you knew?

What messages, emotions or ideas will you take away from this film? Why?

What questions do you still have?

What connections can you make between this film and your own life or experience? Why? Does this film remind you of anything else you’ve read or seen? If so, how and why?

3. An additional challenge | Respond to the essential question at the top of this post: What gives you hope in the fight against climate change?

4. Next, join the conversation by clicking on the comment button and posting in the box that opens on the right. (Students 13 and older are invited to comment, although teachers of younger students are welcome to post what their students have to say.)

5. After you have posted, try reading back to see what others have said, then respond to someone else by posting another comment. Use the “Reply” button or the @ symbol to address that student directly.

6. To learn more, read “This Is the World Being Left to Us by Adults.” a Guest Opinion Essay published in August by Greta Thunberg along with Adriana Calderon, Farzana Faruk Jhumu and Eric Njuguna, who are youth climate activists from Mexico, Bangladesh and Kenya:

Last week, some of the world’s leading climate change scientists confirmed that humans are making irreversible changes to our planet and extreme weather will only become more severe. This news is a “code red for humanity,” said the United Nations secretary general.

It is — but young people like us have been sounding this alarm for years. You just haven’t listened.

On Aug. 20, 2018, one child staged a lone protest outside the Swedish Parliament, expecting to stay for three weeks. Tomorrow we will mark three years since Greta Thunberg’s strike. Even earlier, brave young people from around the world spoke out about the climate crisis in their communities. And today, millions of children and young people have united in a movement with one voice, demanding that decision makers do the work necessary to save our planet from the unprecedented heat waves, massive floods and vast wildfires we are increasingly witnessing. Our protest will not end until the inaction does.

For children and young people, climate change is the single greatest threat to our futures. We are the ones who will have to clean up the mess you adults have made, and we are the ones who are more likely to suffer now. Children are more vulnerable than adults to the dangerous weather events, diseases and other harms caused by climate change, which is why a new analysis released Friday by UNICEF is so important.

The Children’s Climate Risk Index provides the first comprehensive view of where and how this crisis affects children. It ranks countries based on children’s exposure to climate and environmental shocks, as well as their underlying vulnerability to those shocks.

It finds that virtually every child on the planet is exposed to at least one climate or environmental hazard right now. A staggering 850 million, about a third of all the world’s children, are exposed to four or more climate or environmental hazards, including heat waves, cyclones, air pollution, flooding or water scarcity. A billion children, nearly half the children in the world, live in “extremely high risk” countries, the UNICEF researchers report.

This is the world being left to us. But there is still time to change our climate future. Around the world, our movement of young activists continues to grow.

Want more student-friendly videos? Visit our Film Club column.

Students 13 and older in the United States and Britain, and 16 and older elsewhere, are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.

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