16 year-old Swede Greta Thunberg has been nominated for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize on account of her weekly school strikes that she has been undertaking in front of the Swedish Parliament since August last year. What began as an individual action has since grown into a generation demanding that their political leaders take climate breakdown seriously. Thunberg’s protest has inspired similar demonstrations by students in over 100 countries. As the founder of this mass movement, Thunberg has since addressed the United Nations and the World Economic Forum, declaring to world leaders that “on climate change, we have to acknowledge that we have failed.”
According to the Nobel Prize webpage for 2019 nominations, there are a total of 301 nominees for this year, consisting of 223 individuals and 78 organizations. Thunberg was nominated by three Norwegian MPs who proposed the Swedish student “because if we do nothing to halt climate change, it will be the cause of wars, conflict and refugees”. One of the MPs, Freddy Andre Ovstegar, added that her actions were “a major contribution to peace”.
The political response to the strikes has been mixed, but in many nations governments have backed the school strikers, including Germal Chancellor Angela Merkel and the mayors of cities across Europe, North America, and Australia. The head of Amnesty Internation, Kumi Naidoo, said of these children: “they are often told they are ‘tomorrow’s leaders’. But if they wait until ‘tomorrow’ there may not be a future in which to lead.” Naidoo further commented that “the passion and determination” of striking students “put their leaders to shame”.
In these times of terrifying ecological instability and a distinct lack of political will to change the status quo, the recognition of a young environmental advocate is welcome news. It feels as if there is hardly ever a positive story regarding the climage. Shortly after taking office in 2017, President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Climate agreement in 2020, hardly a promising lead from a world superpower. The Trump administration has dismantled much of the environmentally protective legislation which came in under former President Barack Obama. In the United Kingdom, the environment is playing second fiddle to talk of sovereignty and borders, sidelined by round on round of Brexit talks.
Thunberg’s commitment to environmental issues is a ray of hope. The school strikes show that it may only take the defiant actions of the few to garner the support of the many. It is also testament to the power of peacefully exercising one’s rights in a democratic society. Thunberg is clearly not alone in standing up to the ecological catastrophe. Despite the setbacks, governments and politicians are slowly beginning to address the problem, from Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez’s proposed Green New Deal in the U.S, to the war on air pollution in the People’s Republic of China, which has dramatically reduced the severity of the country’s once infamous smog.
The nomination of Thunberg is one thing; the necessary and drastic transformation of the global economy and political establishment is something else. For all the conflicts and wars that continue in the world, the impending breakdown of the climate poses the greatest security threat to any nation, and to all life on earth. Perhaps such a danger might provide a common cause behind which humanity can rally. After Greta Thunberg, this is no longer impossible to imagine.
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