“When I first heard about something called climate change … I remember thinking that it was really strange that humans, who are an animal species among others, could be capable of changing the earth’s climate,” says 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg in a TedX speech that has been viewed over a million times. “Because if it were, and if it was really happening, we wouldn’t be talking about anything else.”

Thunberg certainly doesn’t want us to talk about anything but climate change—she’s even scolded European leaders for obsessing over Brexit, the United Kingdom’s separation from the European Union, instead of taking urgently needed action to address the climate emergency at hand. The TedX talk, which the Swedish activist gave in Stockholm in late 2018, came after months of protesting her government’s climate inaction by skipping school and sitting in front of the steps of the Swedish Parliament. Little did Swedish leaders or perhaps even Thunberg herself know that her seemingly simple act of civil disobedience would spark a worldwide youth activist movement.

Not only did students around the globe follow in Thunberg’s footsteps by staging their own school strikes, but entire movements such as Extinction Rebellion, which essentially brought the city of London to a standstill in April, have been inspired by the young activist’s “plain-spoken, no-holds-barred chastising of world leaders over their inaction on climate change [with] signature calm,” as Truthdig’s Sonali Kolhatkar writes.

The young activist’s message isn’t necessarily new or groundbreaking. In fact, as she explains in her talk, she’s not here to offer hope in the form of solutions for one crucial reason: They already exist. And she’s right. The public has known for many years that we were doing possibly irreversible damage to our planet. More importantly, political leaders have also known this, yet have done little to enforce goals like those of the Paris Agreement, which came late in the game anyway. What’s more, heads of companies such as Shell, Exxon and others in the fossil fuel industry have known the facts for decades, and have willfully deceived consumers. Climate scientists have been warning us and also coming up with an abundance of green solutions.

“I want you to panic,” Thunberg says. For the young woman with her whole life ahead of her, the rest of us are acting far too calmly about a full-on crisis that will determine her future and that of her children and grandchildren, as she reminds us.

Perhaps one of the most inspiring things about Thunberg is that she practices what she preaches. The Swedish youth is a vegan, based on the numerous studies that have shown how meat consumption is responsible for a large portion of harmful methane emissions, and she has given up air travel completely.

Her transportation choices haven’t stopped her from traveling widely and more sustainably to the likes of Davos, the COP24 conference, the European Commission, European Parliament and, most recently, the U.K. parliament. In all these houses of power, the teenager looked at the people surrounding her, all many years further into their lives and careers than she and did nothing to hide her disappointment in her elders.

At the World Economic Forum held in Davos in January, Thunberg told those present, “Our house is on fire, I am here to say our house is on fire. According to the IPCC we are less than 12 years away from not being able to undo our mistakes.”

In the Houses of Parliament in London, she began, “I speak on behalf of future generations. I know many of you don’t want to listen to us — you say we are just children. But we’re only repeating the message of the united climate science. … Many of you appear concerned that we are wasting valuable lesson time, but I assure you we will go back to school the moment you start listening to science and give us a future. Is that really too much to ask?”

These are just some highlights of her incredibly eloquent, powerful speeches, which you will soon be able to read in a book aptly titled, “No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference.” Thunberg, who has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, views it as a “gift” that has allowed her to see things in “black and white.” As writer Ian Birrell argues in the Guardian, “Greta Thunberg teaches us about autism as much as climate change.” Recently, the now-household name was also nominated for a Nobel Prize.

But perhaps the most remarkable thing about Thunberg’s activism is that it’s having a measurable impact. U.K. opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon have led the U.K. Parliament to declare a climate emergency, due to pressure from Thunberg and the Extinction Rebellion movement. Thunberg’s message continues to spread and inspire activism and action across this ailing planet, and not a second too soon, given, as she reminds us, that we are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction and are just a few years away from the point of no return when it comes to our planet’s survival.

For all she has already accomplished in her short years on earth to help save it, Greta Thunberg is our Truthdigger of the Month.

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