Installment 8: Dispatches from COP24, A UMN student delegation in Katowice, Poland
Installment 8 was written by Annamarie Rutledge, a UMN Humphrey School of Public Affairs graduate student.
You’re Never Too Small to Make a Difference
Day 3: Wednesday, December 5
If you haven’t heard of Greta Thunberg, I advise you to conduct a quick Google search. Greta is a 15-year-old climate activist known for inspiring a movement of school strikes for climate action after protesting outside the parliament in Stockholm when Sweden was experiencing unprecedented wildfires and heatwaves. She is educated, straightforward, and genuine – exactly what we need as a messenger for COP24. At the Climate Action Hub this afternoon, Greta took the stage to discuss her climate experiences. When asked how her time has been at COP24, Greta responded, “I expected more action and less talking.” Action, indeed, is what the world needs now more than ever.
Sitting Outside the Parliament
When the protest started, Greta didn’t have any expectations. “Whatever happens, happens,” said Greta. Greta had not met one single child that cared about the climate crisis before she began striking. “It’s very scary. More young people should be interested.” Greta made the point that climate change is weird because it’s something we humans have caused, it threatens our very existence, yet it’s not our first priority. “It’s not that I THINK it’s important, it IS important,” emphasized Greta. If work doesn’t get done here in Katowice, Greta pledged to sit outside the parliament every Friday until Sweden aligns with the Paris Agreement.
On Lessons Learned
“You’re never too small to make a difference.”
That’s the quote that stuck with me. Greta educated herself using books, articles, films, podcasts, and discussions with scientists and experts. Within months she inspired more than 20,000 students to join her climate strike, gained nearly 25,000 Twitter followers, and is speaking to packed audiences at an international climate change conference with leaders from around the world.
Perhaps Greta’s proudest achievement is that she has initiated discussions and lifestyle changes. “Sometimes people come up to me and say, thanks to you I have stopped flying or I sold my car, and that’s very inspiring,” she noted. While Greta recognizes her successes, she is disappointed by the fact people still don’t know about the climate crisis. “I have met politicians, journalists, and other people… they don’t have a clue about it … They don’t even know what the albedo effect is.”
What Can We Do?
Greta advised everyone to 1. Educate themselves to understand what the climate crisis means and what effects it has, 2. Spread this information to others and keep the dialogue moving, and 3. Put pressure on those that have power. “A politician’s job is not to save the world, or have radical climate politics – it’s to win elections and get votes,” said Greta. “And today you don’t win elections and win votes by telling the truth about the climate and environment.” Wise words from a young climate activist.
At the end of the session, Greta received a standing ovation from the full-capacity Climate Action Hub. As an inspiration to those both young and old, she is COP24’s superstar.
“We young people, we need to get angry and hold the older generations accountable for the mess they have created. We must realize that our future is on the line. And we need to make our voices heard.”
– Greta Thunberg