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Youth power rises to shape earth's future  

Shihab Sarkar   | Published: September 30, 2019 22:07:11


The murky background and the realities which have produced the two firebrand and earth-shaking teenage girls are different from each other. One of them is Greta Thunberg, who has recently made headlines across the world with her full-throttle green campaign. In her speeches and statements, the Swedish teenage student has come down hard on the countries still reluctant to become fully sincere in working out a climate pact. The other is teenager Malala Yousufzai (now a young lady) who came from the South Asian country of Pakistan. While in her teens, at 15, she had vowed to continue her studies. She also advocated educational opportunities for girls of her age. The stance was opposed by the country's obscurant forces. The proponents of anti-girls' education had already threatened to crush all outlets of liberal thoughts and activities in parts of Pakistan through violent means. With Malala sticking to her resolve to pursue her school studies, the opposing forces grew more violent. Finally, they struck her physically with lethal weapons. She escaped death, but was severely injured. The rest is history. Malala has dedicated herself to girls' education and women's emancipation. The Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg's case is different. She has proved herself an unflinching girl committed to halting the climate change process.

Sixteen-year-old Thunberg's climate campaign did not remain confined to her own country. After its launch in September, 2018, it spread throughout Europe and North America. As months wore on, the protests fanned out across the other parts of the globe. The ripples have also reached Bangladesh, with school students organising rallies and processions.  Fridays were declared 'Fridays for Future' or 'climate action' days on which people of all ages, with young students in greater numbers, brought out protest marches urging the big powers to adopt climate-friendly measures. Ostensibly the targets of the rallies were the US and some other fast-developing countries. A new face of Greta Thunberg glowing with uncompromising resolve was seen at the UN Climate Summit 2019 on last September 24. That the Swedish teenager would not back out from her present position became clear as she told the high-profile summit, "I shouldn't be up here. I should be back at school on the other side of the ocean." But she changed her tone into a scream as she said, "You come to us young people for hope. How dare you?" While addressing the assembly of heads of state and government as well as the UN Secretary General, Greta demonstrated clear signs of a global climate crusader in the making. Evidently, she ably represented a growing youth movement against climate inaction which mobilised millions in worldwide strikes.

As has been natural with teenagers around the world for ages, Greta or Malala --- in 2012, should have been engaged in their school studies and other girlish recreations. But time has changed. Teenagers or early youths of the 21st century are much different from those in the past. A lot of them are found to be socio-politically conscious and are eager to take part in movements against injustices. Environmental degradation and the impending climate disasters prompt many of them to keep abreast of the developments in this sector. Credits for this largely go to the media, notably that reach them online. The digital age has radically changed the way teenage girls and boys grow up today. Greta Thunberg, Malala and scores of other teenagers belong to this different generation. These exceptional boys and girls live in both highly advanced and backward societies.

As many have found in the strong resoluteness of Greta in bringing her climate message to the 193-member United Nations, she is not the type of girl to feel discouraged by the browbeating and taunts. It was really painful to hear the sarcastic reply of President Trump to the emotion-charged appeals made by Greta at the climate summit. While responding to the girl's accusations levelled against the polluting nations, Donald Trump has mockingly tweeted, "She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!" In fact, the US President had echoed the positions of the big polluting countries. That the Swedish teenager's battle against the abettors of climate change is not going to lose its strength became clear immediately after Trump's tweet. Throughout the world, environmental activists reacted to Trump's 'trolling' with great disappointment. As viewed by Greenpeace International chief Jennifer Morgan, "I think Greta's impassioned cry for sanity and for actually listening and acting based on the science was ignored."

Although it sounds disheartening, one cannot deny the fact that the industrialised nations attending the UN Climate Summit were largely lukewarm on many climate-related issues. Those included carbon emission, ozone depletion, global warming, an effective climate change pact etc. However, Greta Thunberg's speech evoked more than 16,000 responses in three hours, many attacking the US President. The responses apparently came up against the backdrop of the world's top scientists saying long-term temperature rise must be limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial level to prevent runaway global warming with catastrophic effects.

There were also rays of faint hope at the summit. In his much-awaited speech the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said action by action the tide had been turning. Elaborating, he listed 77 countries that had committed to carbon neutrality by 2050, although those countries combined produce significantly less than half the world's carbon dioxide. Environmental activists and climatologists did not waste time to identify the ritualistic character of the information. All the promises made by the large industrialised countries, now termed big polluters, still remain noncommittal. It's only the poorer countries vulnerable to global warming impacts like sea-level rise, erratic behaviour of nature etc who want to see the promises being made by the polluting countries at the recent climate meets begin materialising. All-out youth campaigns led by the likes of Greta Thunberg, and involving conscientious people around the world, might emerge as agents of change in the near future. Few nations are prepared to fall victim to climate disasters without action.

 

shihabskr@ymail.com

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