Teenage Girls Can Change the World. Greta Thunberg Is Proof

International Women’s Day: A Green Oscar winner and conservationist, Ashwika Kapur pens a tribute to Greta Thunberg.

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Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.
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February isn’t the most exciting month in the UK. Bristol is where I am currently. It’s grim, cold and rainy. There aren’t any tourists to add some colour to the gloom. And there’s very little entertainment on offer. Out on the streets, everyone seems to be going about with glum umbrellas, and inward-turning looks. Quite bleak at the best of times.

But a few days ago it was announced that Greta Thunberg, the teenage climate warrior, was coming to Bristol for an event. And just like that, overnight, the city sprang to life. The only question on everyone’s lips was, “Are you going to be there?”

Of course I was going to be there! I don’t see Greta taking a ship all the way to India anytime soon, unless of course, she plans to personally berate our own herd of climate change-denying leaders in India, which would be very welcome! But, until then, this would be my only chance to see her speak in person. And I wanted to know what it was really like at one of her iconic climate marches.

Teenage Girls Can Change the World. Greta Thunberg Is Proof
(Photo: Ashwika Kapur)

All for a ‘Greta Cause’!

College Green by the iconic Bristol cathedral.

The unrelenting rain has turned the grounds into a muddy bog. But the miserable English weather hasn’t deterred the 60,000 odd people that have gathered here, in full voice and spirit for a greater cause.

Or a ‘Greta cause’ as one droll placard put it.

Indeed, the posters on display are a real highlight of the event. Some are somber messages of doom. Some proclaim the cause with understated British wit. And others take delightful digs at the establishment. On stage, a young local protestor encourages the crowds to join in with “Hey hey ho ho, climate change has gotta go!”

The crowd joins in lustily with a passion that sweeps every last person into the heady loop of catchy sloganeering.

‘We Don’t Need No Education’

It’s still 15 minutes to Greta’s arrival. But the teen organisers know exactly how to keep their peers from getting impatient. They’ve come armed with a hip playlist. Whoever said a climate protest couldn’t also be a bit of party? Everything from Beatles to Bieber is on offer. It kicks off with a favourite among climate strikers worldwide, the Bee Gees hit, Staying Alive. Which is what these events are all about. And that’s followed by the perennial crowd-pleaser the world over, every young rebel’s go-to anthem — the chant ‘We Don’t Need No Education’ grows louder as the thousands of teens here join in.

Teenage Girls Can Change the World. Greta Thunberg Is Proof
(Photo: Ashwika Kapur)

Many of them have been on ‘Fridays for Future’ strikes for months, refusing to attend school and threatening to forgo an education because they think there’s no point to it if they don’t have a future. That’s debatable of course, but this is their moment. And they sing with all their heart.

As the crowd grooves to the music, this feels strangely like a rock festival. Glastonbury without the hoopla and the hype. Fans building up to the much-awaited moment when their favourite rock star will take the stage.

And a climate rock star she certainly is. As Urban Dictionary puts it: a rock star is a person who always delivers the goods. If they say they are going to do something they do it. By that definition, Greta is indeed rock star.

How a Teenager Stood Up to the Powers That Be

A year ago, who would have thought a pig-tailed teenager, dwarfed by her yellow raincoat, standing on the streets of Sweden with a hand-drawn placard, would become a global force to reckon with? Yet she has. By firmly and courageously standing up to the most feared and powerful men in the world, to tell them exactly what she thinks – that they are endangering the future of her generation and they’ll have none of it.

Teenage Girls Can Change the World. Greta Thunberg Is Proof
(Photo: Ashwika Kapur)
But if Urban Dictionary is to be believed, for young people, the antonym of rock star is ‘crock star’ – those who just talk big and don’t deliver results – in Greta’s case, a male-dominated band of haters in various positions of power.

These ‘Greta-haters’ include the Trumps of the world, who’ve done everything in their capacity to undermine her voice, even using her autism as a reason to put her down. But wise Greta says their rage only shows how fearful they are of losing the argument. And I’m inclined to agree with her.

A Simple Yet Serious Message

It’s finally time for her to arrive, and the energy level now is now beyond description. As the tiny girl with her classic plait and yellow jacket takes the stage, the crowd roars in excitement. But the moment she speaks she commands pin drop silence. Thousands of adults and children stand in hushed unison.

Her message is as serious, simple and powerful as she is.

“This is an emergency… and change is coming whether or not they like it.”

“The adults are behaving like children so we have to be the adults in the room.” Pause. She looks intently into everyone’s heart. “So let’s march,” she says, with biblical brevity and power. And the thousands who are gathered are uplifted and they follow. The march begins.

Many think these marches and protests by youth are just another fad. That they’ll lose steam and get bored like they always do. But far from fizzling out, the Greta movement is growing every single day.

Not a child on that field felt too small or too young or too unimportant to speak up for their planet and their future. So, something tells me these kids won’t give up until they’ve got what they want and what they rightfully deserve — a safe planet and a safer future.

(Ashwika Kapur is a Green Oscar winner and a nature & conservation filmmaker. This is a personal blog and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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