There was no beating around the bush when 16-year-old climate change activist Greta Thunberg addressed world leaders with a powerful speech at the United Nations.
Her words resonated with everyone around the world, especially with the younger generations left to deal with the consequences of the destructive practices of big corporations, politicians, and leaders.
“I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean,” Greta said to the UN’s room full of leaders. The 16-year-old activist made headlines in August 2018 when she skipped school to hold a “School Climate Strike” in the streets of Sweden. Now, she is leading rallies and speaking in Congress to directly address world leaders about the actions they must take in order to revert the effects of climate change that people are deliberately ignoring.
“You come to us young people for hope. How dare you? You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. People are suffering, people are dying,” said Greta.
“We are in the beginning of mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money, and fairytales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”
Persuading Greta to travel to America wasn’t easy. She refuses to fly because of the high levels of emissions from air travel. In January, when she attended the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, she traveled by train. It took her 32 hours. To get her to come to New York to address the United Nations, she was offered the option of sailing across the Atlantic Ocean on a 60-foot zero-emissions yacht.
On Monday Sept. 23, Greta and 15 other children filed a complaint against the United Nations, alleging that five of the world’s leading economies have violated their human rights by not taking adequate action to stop the unfolding climate crisis.
The petition names five countries—Germany, France, Brazil, Argentina, and Turkey—that have failed to uphold their obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a 30-year-old human rights treaty that is the most widely ratified in history.
Greta said that her message to the global leaders gathered in New York is simple: “We are watching you.”
“If you choose to fail us, I say we will never forgive you,” she added.