The Organization for World Peace (OWP) is proud to present this year’s Jared Hatten Award for Peace Promotion to Greta Thunberg. This award recognizes an individual or organization that has had a prominent role in promoting world peace and reducing the harm caused by international conflict. This is the second year this award has been presented. This year, the award (formerly the OWP’s Prize for Peace Promotion) has been renamed in recognition of Jared Hatten for his dedication to creating a better, more peaceful world. Jared was a prominent correspondent for the OWP, who wrote on a variety of topics promoting peace and human rights. Sadly, Jared passed away last year due to sudden illness; The OWP hopes that this award can extend Jared’s legacy to create a world that he would have been proud of.
This year we present our award to Greta Thunberg in recognition of her work promoting an urgent and collective response to climate change. Her impact in this sphere is not only significant for environmental reasons, but for world peace and the future of international stability. Climate change plays an important role in driving international conflict and will increasingly do so in the future. The OWP seeks to highlight Greta Thunberg’s work towards forestalling these potentially violent conflicts, and commend her for taking up a position of leadership in nonviolent protests at such a young age.
Greta Tintin Eleonora Ernman Thunberg was born on January 3rd, 2003 in Stockholm, Sweden, to her father Svante Thunberg, and her mother Malena Ernman, a well-known opera singer. She is a born and bred climate activist; one of Greta’s ancestors is Svante Arrhenius, a Nobel Prize winning chemist who, as early as 1896, estimated humanity’s impact on climate change through the greenhouse effect. At the age of eight, young Greta first heard about climate change, and was extremely upset that nothing was being done about it. She stopped talking and eating, and was diagnosed with autism, selective mutism, and obsessive compulsive disorder. However, her parents were supportive of her, and at her insistence, began to live in a more ecologically friendly manner, adopting a vegan diet, as well as eschewing airplane travel—something that put a great strain upon Greta’s mother’s opera career. Though Greta’s parents made these changes originally to show support for their daughter, not out of an overriding concern for climate, Greta felt full of hope. Soon, she would strive to give this hope to others.
In 2018, she began a “climate strike,” by protesting in front of the Swedish Parliament instead of going to school, demanding that Sweden reduce its carbon emissions and agree to the Paris Climate Accord. In an interview with Democracy Now, Ms. Thunberg stated that she was inspired by students in the United States staging school walk-outs to demand gun control legislation in the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida on Valentine’s Day of 2018. On the first day of her strike, Ms. Thunberg stood alone, but in the following days many others joined her. Her initial climate strike lasted from the 20th of August until the 9th of September of that year, the date of the Swedish general elections. After the elections, she only took Fridays off to protest, calling her movement “Fridays for Future.” A vast movement soon grew among students across the world who were inspired by Ms. Thunberg’s example, determined to make their concerns heard, as they knew that they would likely be alive to experience several of the increasingly worse effects of climate change.
The earth is warming at a rapid rate; the average global temperature has warmed by nearly two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels between 1880 and 2015, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. This is primarily due to a thirty percent increase in the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide in the past 130 years, due in most part to the rapid pace of industrialization undergone by human civilization within that time period. Though the average global temperature has risen by only a few degrees, this has translated into a massive temperature increase in the planet’s Polar Regions, which has contributed to a massive loss of sea ice and mountain glaciers, which has in turn caused rising sea levels. Furthermore, as the oceans continue to warm, more and more powerful tropical cyclones are developing, which have caused massive damage to vulnerable coastal infrastructure. As weather patterns shift due to the rising temperatures, drought and desertification has been brought to some areas, while torrential rains have hit other regions. The goal of Ms. Thunberg’s movement has been to get governments to recognize these dangers, and move to limit carbon emissions before it becomes too late, which according to prominent climate scientists quoted in Live Science, is twelve years or less.
Climate change also has implications for world peace, something which Greta and her followers are acutely aware of. As sea levels rise and vast stretches of land become uninhabitable, millions in vulnerable areas are expected to become climate refugees, as is already underway in flood-prone Bangladesh. Additionally, the example of the European refugee crisis shows that with influxes of refugees comes a rise in far-right-wing extremism and racism, as refugees are perceived by some as invaders.
Furthermore, as resources such as water become scarce, violence is likely to erupt between populations which already depend on limited supplies of fresh water. Such a conflict is already brewing within Northeast Africa as Ethiopia moves to dam the Nile River in order to tap into hydroelectric power, which has caused a great deal of tension with Egypt and Sudan. Overall, says Devon Ryan of Stanford News, “Climate change-driven extreme weather and related disasters can damage economies, lower farming and livestock production and intensify inequality among social groups. These factors, when combined with other drivers of conflict, may increase risks of violence”. It is here where Greta’s movement may save the most lives; a global movement towards acknowledging and preventing the most catastrophic effects of climate change is also a move to protect world peace, not only in stopping military conflict, but in bringing the world together in a new spirit of cooperation against a common threat.
By 2019, Greta’s activism had taken off into a global movement as large scale climate strikes occurred all over the world, with students walking out of class to protest in the streets. Greta herself became a household name in August 2019, when she sailed across the Atlantic to address the United Nations General Assembly. Speaking to the assembly, Ms. Thunberg was unswerving in her criticism of the current global leadership, chastising them for behaving “like children” in denying the problems they were making worse with their inaction. During her visit to North America, she made keynote addresses to several climate strike protests, including in New York and the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, in which she acknowledged that she was standing on native land, and called for justice for native peoples in addition to action on climate change. Her book, No One is Too Small to Make a Difference became a bestseller, and its proceeds were donated to fund other climate activist groups. With her pointed criticism of many of those in charge, Greta attracted the ire of many of those in power, including American President Donald Trump, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who endorse policies that have attracted widespread criticism from environmental advocates, and who have mocked Ms. Thunberg on social media. However, Greta has responded with wit and humor; when President Putin called her a “kind but poorly informed teenager”, Ms. Thunberg responded by changing her official Twitter bio to “A kind but poorly informed teenager.” Greta’s willingness to go toe to toe with foreign leaders far older than her, has inspired a generation to demand change and cooperation among nations in order to save their world from untold devastation and conflict arising from climate change.
It is for her shining example, single minded resolve, and courage in the face of adversity that the Organization for World Peace is proud to present this year’s Jared Hatten Prize for Peace Promotion to Greta Thunberg. With a global focus, her actions have sought to increase international cooperation, reduce harm and promote long term peace in an increasingly volatile international system. In an era of inaction and uncertainty regarding the future, Greta Thunberg has laid the foundations for progressive action to protect our planet and peace within it.