Greta Thunberg delivered a
no-holds barred, impassioned speech to
the United Nations General Assembly Climate Summit, on Monday, September 23,
flatly declaring, “My message is that we’ll be watching you.
“This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you. You have stolen my dreams, my childhood with your empty words, and yet I am one of the lucky ones. People are suffering, dying, entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!” the 16-year old demanded as the assembly erupted in cheers and applause.
“For more than 30 years, the science
has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away, then come here and
say you are doing enough when the politics and solutions needed are still no
where in sight.
“You say you hear us and
understand the urgency but no matter how sad and angry I am, I don’t want to
believe that, because if you really understood the situation and still kept on
failing to act, then you would be evil and that I refuse to believe,” a
statement that elicited a combination of shock, cheers and applause.
“The popular idea of cutting
emissions in half in 10 years only gives us a 50% chance of staying below 1.5
degrees and the risk of setting off irreversible chain reactions beyond human
“50% may be acceptable to you,
but those numbers don’t include tipping points, most feedback loops, additional
warming hidden by toxic air pollution or the aspects of equity and climate justice.
It also relies on my generation sucking hundreds of billions of tons of your
CO2 out of the air with technologies that barely exist. So 50% isn’t enough to
us who have to live with the consequences,” she declared.
“How dare you pretend this can be
solved with just business as usual and some technical solutions…
“There will not be any solutions,
or plans, in line with the [CO2 emissions] figures today, because these numbers
too uncomfortable and you are still not mature enough to tell it like it is.
You are failing us, but young people are starting to understand your betrayal.
The eyes on all future generations are upon you.
“If you choose to fail us, I say
we will never forgive you.”
is being hailed as the biggest climate protest in history: a worldwide climate
strike that brought out over 4 million people in more than 2100 events in 175
countries, with some 600 in the United States.
York’s climate strike brought out more than 250,000 who overflowed Foley
Square, marched down to Battery Park, where the global climate leader, Greta
Thunberg of Sweden, laid down the gauntlet to the do-nothing world leaders:
“This is an emergency. Our house is on fire,” Thunberg
told the cheering crowd. “We will do everything in our power to stop this
crisis from getting worse.” Noting that she has withdrawn from school in order
to agitate for climate action and to take part in the strikes, children have
left school, she said “Why should we study for a future that is being taken
away from us. That is being sold for profit.”
“Everywhere I have been the situation is more or less
same. The people in power, their beautiful words are the same,” she said. “The
number of politicians and celebrities who want to take selfies with us are the
same. The empty promises are the same. The lies are the same, and the inaction
is the same.”
Virtually daring the world’s leaders to act, she declared,
“The eyes of the world” will be on the world leaders at the climate summit on
Monday for the U.N. Climate Summit. “They have a chance to prove that they too
are united behind the science, they have a chance to take leadership, to prove
they actually hear us,” she said to chants.
“It should not be that way. We should not be the ones who
are fighting for the future, and yet here we are,” she continued.
“We demand a safe future,” she said. “Is
that really too much to ask?”
The link between capitalistic greed and political
corruption was very much on view, with signs that called for “Green Jobs Not
Dirty Fuel” and even more radical calls to “Save the Planet. End capitalism.”
The demands of the strikers echoed the Green New Deal being
proposed: a 100 percent shift away from fossil fuels to clean, renewable
energy; shifts to sustainable agriculture, in such a fair and equitable way as
to “leave no one behind”; environmental, social, political and economic
ahead toward 100 percent clean renewable
energy, protect habitat and species, hold corporations accountable, have a just
transition – leave no one behind,” stated Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, 39, a
marine biologist, policy expert, founder and CEO of Ocean Collectiv, was one of
the only adults to give a speech. “We need strong government policies that
accelerate transition, a Green New Deal.
argued that regenerative farming, renewable energy, electrifying transporation
necessary to mitigate or reverse the adverse impacts of climate change are
already available. “We don’t need new technology.” What is needed is government
when there is failure at the national level, localities, states need to step
up.” Individuals can make a difference as well: “Plant trees, grow food, plant
a climate victory garden, choose foods that are grown regeneratively. Show up,
transform culture. Vote in every election. In 2016, 10 million registered
environmentalists failed to vote. Do not let that happen again.
cannot mobilize at the scale we need unless we face the challenge head on.
Focus on solution. Build a coalition so massive, it shifts the status quo. Dig
in for the long and beautiful struggle for a new world.”
Capitalism was very much under fire – with the opposition
asserting that addressing climate change is akin to throwing the doors open to
socialism, or worse, communism, and in any case, that it would be damaging to
But the case is made by former Vice President Al Gore and
others that the fastest growing areas for jobs are in solar and wind power;
Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders makes the case that the $1 trillion spent
to transition the economy to clean, renewable energy will create 20 million
And in fact, the economy has already been transformed to new
energy: 150 years ago, when coal was discovered in Pennsylvania and emerging industrialists
figured out how to turn it into fuel, and petroleum extractors figured out a
way to capitalize on the waste product of processing petroleum for industrial
grease, gasoline and effectively killed the development of the electric car.
That caused a migration of workers- imported migrants and transplants – to new
villages, cities and towns based on mining, processing, and manufacturing that
had not existed before, often by displacing indigenous people.
worldwide climate strike comes just ahead of the United Nations Climate Summit
to be held Monday, September 23, when countries are expected to present
concrete proposals to mitigate and reverse the climb in temperature before
global warming has catastrophic impacts on food, water, public health and
habitats. The United Nations summit, though, begins with an unprecedented youth
climate summit on Saturday, September 21.
16-year old Thunberg, who began her climate crusade more than a year ago, holding
Friday strike, has become the world’s most recognized climate activist, who has
stood her ground against world leaders and the snarky questions of US
The worldwide climate strike actions coincided with the second anniversary of Hurricane Maria’s devastation of Puerto Rico in which 2,975 people died, and New York City strike’s was held jointly with a Puerto Rico Day of Action. It also comes just days after Hurricane Dorian devastated much of the Bahamas, with Trump shutting the door on climate refugees from that catastrophe.
Here are more highlights from New York City’s Climate Strike: