Characters, Society

Greta’’s Superpower

Greta is the child in the emperor’s tale, and we all are naked.”

— “Nuestra Casa Está Ardiendo” (“Our House Is On Fire”)

Politicians meet, sign agreements, give speeches. Meanwhile, our planet continues to get hotter. According to the most discouraging forecasts, we’re about to reach an environmental tipping point. If we do, thousands of species will become extinct and millions of people will die. Those of us who survive it will face a radically different world.

The data doesn’t lie. It’s likely that the past decade (2010-19) will turn out to be the warmest ever recorded, according to a report by the World Meteorological Organization, with 2019 perhaps the second or third hottest year on record. Carbon dioxide concentrations are increasing, ocean levels are rising and the polar ice caps are melting, making climate change undeniable.

What we need most is a sense of urgency. And that’s exactly what Greta Thunberg has brought to the table. In August 2018, the Swedish teenager started spending nearly every Friday outside the Parliament building in Stockholm, demanding that her government do something to address the climate crisis. Thunberg’s personal determination has reignited a worldwide movement.

During a speech earlier this month at the COP25 United Nations climate summit in Madrid, Thunberg denounced world leaders for failing to tackle climate change: “Our leaders are not behaving as if we were in an emergency. In an emergency you change your behavior. If there is a child standing in the middle of the road and cars are coming at full speed, you don’t look away because it’s too uncomfortable. You immediately run out and rescue that child.

Without pressure from the people, our leaders can get away with basically not doing anything.”

It’s clear we’re doing nothing to save the child in the road — that’s what Thunberg has forced us to realize. This teenager, who sails across the Atlantic instead of flying in order to reduce her carbon footprint, has raised her voice to warn us that we’re running out of time.

The young men and women of Thunberg’s generation are going to suffer because of the inaction and fecklessness of their parents and grandparents. We will leave them a hotter world, where extremes are the new normal: more frequent and more powerful hurricanes, more draughts and fires, more flooding and natural disasters. This is our legacy: Mother Nature angry and on steroids.

The fractious relationship between Thunberg and President Donald Trump perfectly illustrates the stark contrast between the older and younger generations. She’s 16; he’s 73. She believes humans are causing climate change; he doesn’t. After Time magazine named Thunberg its Person of the Year recently, Trump attacked her on Twitter. Without even trying to hide his jealousy, the president tweeted that it was “ridiculous” that she had received such an honor and that she should “work on her Anger Management problem.” He then recommended that she relax and “go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend!”

Fortunately, Thunberg has a great sense of humor. She responded by updating her Twitter bio with an almost word-for-word quotation of Trump’s offensive tweet, making sure nobody would forget it. The mocker was mocked. (Never argue with a teenager on social media; you will always lose. Always.)

If Thunberg makes you uncomfortable the same way she makes Trump uncomfortable, it’s because she’s urging you personally to take real action, and is willing to hold you personally to account. She isn’t going to smile at you just to be polite.

In her mind, every decision we make is connected to something larger and vastly more important: the fight to save our planet. As Thunberg recently wrote on Twitter: “Every election is a climate election. Vote for your children. Vote for the planet. Vote for future generations. Vote for humanity.”

Beyond sounding the climate alarm — our world is on fire and we urgently need to do something about it! — Thunberg has emerged as a powerful symbol of hope. She firmly believes that we can change things if we set our minds to it. And she has transformed her Asperger’s syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder, into a source of strength. As Thunberg says, “Being different is a superpower.”

This is precisely the right message for these times. If we keep doing things the same way, we’ll fall right off the cliff. Only if we start making different choices will our planet have a viable future. For Thunberg, the time for us to act is now.

By Jorge Ramos Ávalos

Image by: Anthony Quintano with license CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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Jorge Ramos has been the anchorman for Noticiero Univision since 1986. He writes a weekly column for more than 40 newspapers in the United States and Latin America, and provides daily radio commentary for the Radio Univision network. Ramos also hosts Al Punto, Univision’s weekly public affairs program offering analysis of the week’s top stories, and Fusion’s AMERICA with Jorge Ramos, a news program geared towards young adults. Ramos has won eight Emmy awards and is the author of ten books, most recently, STRANGER - The Challenge of a Latino Immigrant in the Trump Era.

A survey conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center found that Ramos is the second most recognized Latino leader in the country. Latino Leaders magazine chose him as one of “The Ten Most Admired Latinos” and “101 Top Leaders of the Latino Community in the U.S.”