IN August 2018, a 15-year-old Swedish girl with Asperger’s syndrome called for ‘radical action’ against climate change. Along with a handful of classmates, teachers and parents, Greta Thunberg began her strike from school. The threat of climate change was too great to delay action. Everything else — including her education — could wait. Seven months later, Greta is joined by tens of thousands of students from across the world as they march for change, skipping school on March 15, 2019, in protest against the inaction of adults. The children marched in Stockholm, Bangkok, Berlin, Lagos, London, Lahore and several other cities. Since this generation is inheriting the world with all its chaos, it only makes sense that they lead the resistance to right wrongs. And Greta has become something of a leader of this resistance by taking on the burden of saving the world on her small shoulders at a time when the leader of the free world continues to deny climate change. Meanwhile, others continue to be apathetic if they are not directly impacted by climate change (yet) or watch on helplessly as they live through the death of coral reefs, suffocate in cities enveloped by smog, or find themselves displaced due to wildfires, floods and droughts.
In 2015, the Paris Agreement called for reducing global warming to below 2°C, yet the world is far from achieving that goal, and greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, despite greater awareness of the malaise. Just last week, the Global Environment Outlook report stated that 25pc of all premature deaths and diseases are caused by manmade pollution and environmental degradation. The findings of the report were conducted over a period of six years, with the help of 250 scientists from 70 nations. It warns of the losses to the global economy the destruction of the world’s ecosystems is causing, with the livelihoods of billions of people in peril. Pakistan remains one of the most vulnerable countries to the risks of climate change, despite being responsible for only a small percentage of the world’s global greenhouse emissions. The fact that we are primarily an agrarian economy, with more than half the population linked to agricultural activities, spells an even greater disaster in the making. “We are only seeing the beginning,” Greta tweeted of the children’s protests. For the sake of civilisation, one can only hope the adults are listening to her.
Published in Dawn, March 18th, 2019