“No one is too small to make a difference”, a book by Swedish Environmental activist, Greta Thunberg is a push that the world needs to take environmental crisis as a serious business. At a tender age of 17, Greta is pouring her heart out about how she feels, and in fact, how everybody else should feel about protecting our deteriorating nature. This article is about this young lady who is fearless in expressing herself when it comes to the topic of saving the world’s environment for the future generation. And has gone beyond her capabilities for the same.
Born on 3 January 2003 in Stockholm, Sweden to opera singer Malena Ernman and actor Svante Thunberg, Greta started wondering about climate change and its impact when she was eight years old. Since then, she has not stopped and is taking the world by storm by going vocal about the existential crisis arising from climate change in public and to political leaders at the world stage. Who is this girl and why the world is bound to listen to her?
Greta’s life & personality
Greta was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and selective mutism. The issues are characterized by difficulty in social interaction and non-verbal communication, restricted and repetitive behavioral patterns and inability to speak in certain social conditions. Despite all these issues, Greta built the courage and stood up to put questions before the world about why so little has been done to heal the environment.
Before she could point the correct ways to the people, she began by adopting several lifestyle choices to reduce her own and her family’s carbon footprint. She induced upcycling, vegan habits, and gave up flying. Though her family was in favor of environment preservation, the decision of not flying was detrimental to the international opera career of her mother. But since this cause was a source of hope and happiness for Thunberg, the family did its best to extend their support.
Her activism mission & journey– Stop stealing our future
The intentions of this Swedish environmental activist outreached the masses in the year 2018. Thunberg won a climate change essay competition held by Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet. In part, she wrote “I want to feel safe. How can I feel safe when I know we are in the greatest crisis in human history?”. The publishing of this article led Bo Thorén from Fossil Free Dalsland, a group working in context to climate change, to approach Greta and suggested a school children strike for climate change. Greta started this campaign alone in absence of any support from her fellow students.
She was so determined for the cause that she decided not to attend her school until the 2018 Swedish general election to be held on 9 September. That year, Sweden had the hottest summer in at least 262 years, causing heatwaves and wildfires. This upset Great and she began her protest on 20 August 2018 demanding the Swedish government to reduce carbon emissions in accordance with the Paris Agreement. She protested outside the Riksdag, the national legislature, and the supreme decision-making body of Sweden. She sat every day for three weeks during school hours with the sign Skolstrejk för klimatet which translates to “school strike for climate”.
Her candid speeches gave her international recognition as a Swedish environmental activist. Many students and people around the world got encouragement from such revolutionizing thoughts and actions. The High-profile activists on social media promoted her and gave her coverage in little more than a week.
The world has opened more stages for Greta where she took part in demonstrations throughout Europe. She made moving speeches and in the month of December 2018, more than 20,000 students at around 270 cities around the globe participated in student strikes. By September 2019, this number rose to over four million people.
She continued to represent at world stages. She spoke during the plenary session of the 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP24). She was made part of sessions at World Economic Forum in January 2019 and addressed British, European, and French parliaments. In March 2019, she took a sabbatical area to travel around America to promote the idea of environmental conservation.
Greta submitted an eight sentence statement with IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C as evidence at the US House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis on September 18. In the same month, she attended the UN Climate Action Summit in New York City.
Greta was appointed as a guest editor BBC Radio’s flagship current affairs program, The Today Programme. She featured interviews on climate change with Sir David Attenborough, Bank of England chief Mark Carney, Massive Attack’s Robert Del Naja, and Shell Oil executive Maarten Wetselaar
This year January, Thunberg delivered two speeches at the World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland. She participated in panel discussions hosted by The New York Times and the World Economic Forum.
Greta’s take on climate change
Anti-flying also called flygskam or flight shame is what Greta support, along with other environment-friendly activities. There is a substantial increase in the amount of greenhouse gas emissions by the aircraft. Hence, Thunberg refused to fly on environmental grounds. This was a part of her 2019 “awareness tour” in Europe and consequentially, Sweden has reported a 4% drop in domestic air travel for 2019 and an increase in rail use.
She accuses business and political leaders upfront of their failure in taking appropriate actions to deal with the existential crisis because of global warming. She says, “Our house is on fire” and holds the current generation of adults responsible for all the chaos.
She supports thinking of the young activists from developing countries who are worst hit by the damaging aspect of climate change. At international forums she strongly asserted the “lowering” the emissions is not enough, rather the efforts are needed to “stop” the emission to keep global warming to less than 1.5C. And also, the EU must reduce its CO2 emissions by 80%, rather than the proposed goal of 40%.
Some of her popular statements
Our young Swedish environmental activist, Greta, is famous for her outspoken statements that send revolutionary waves around the globe. Here are some of her famous tweets and speech excerpt.
“Indigenous people are literally being murdered for trying to protect the forest from illegal deforestation. Over and over again. It is shameful that the world remains silent about this”.
Twitter, December 2019
“This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope? How dare you! You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are at the beginning of mass extinction. And all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”
At 2019 UN Climate Action Summit
Glass half full or half empty
There are people who have appreciated Greta since her very action as a promising Swedish environmental activist. But she has invited some strong criticism as well for the ways she put her thoughts into words & targeting influential people. Bad or good, a vast majority is now under the “Greta effect”.
Speaking at an event in New Zealand in May 2019, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres came in support of the strikes initiated by Thunberg and admitted that “My generation has failed to respond properly to the dramatic challenge of climate change. This is deeply felt by young people. No wonder they are angry.”
Pope Francis also thanked Greta and encouraged her to continue. Presidential candidates of United States Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, and Bernie Sanders came forward in her support and German Chancellor Angela Merkel indicated that young activists like Thunberg had propelled the government to act faster on the issues of climate change.
Britain’s secretary for the environment, Michael Gove, said: “When I listened to you, I felt great admiration, but also responsibility and guilt. I am of your parents’ generation, and I recognize that we haven’t done nearly enough to address climate change and the broader environmental crisis that we helped to create.” Labour politician Ed Miliband, said: “You have woken us up. Thank you. All the young people who have gone on strike have held up a mirror to our society. You have taught us all a really important lesson. You have stood out from the crowd.”
Some condemned Greta’s way of presenting facts as being childish.
Many, including Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, German chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin, OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries), and the U.S.
President Donald Trump threw criticism claiming that she oversimplifies the complex issues involved. They say, she was being manipulated to serve others’ interests and is “poorly informed”.
Honours & awards
Within a span of 2 years of her work as a Swedish environmental activist, Greta is being facilitated with various honors and awards. A list of 24 honors and titles has some internationally recognized and local awards, including TIME’S 25 most influential teens of 2018, Fryshuset scholarship, 2018, for Young Role Model of the Year, Nobel Peace Prize nomination, 2019 and 2020, Fritt Ord Award, April 2019, shared with Natur og Ungdom, which “celebrates freedom of speech”, TIME 100, April 2019, by Time magazine, an annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world for that year, Doctor honoris causa (honorary doctorate), May 2019, conferred by the Belgian, the University of Mons for “contribution to raising awareness on sustainable development, International Children’s Peace Prize, October 2019, shared with 14-year-old Divina Maloum from Cameroon, awarded by the KidsRights Foundation.
A YouGov poll in Britain shows a record level increase in the public concern about the environment since Thunberg’s initiatives and protests. Climate change situations demand self-motivated beings like Greta. In her own way, she is fighting to save our common home.
The Great Ice Age: Palaeoecologic and Natural Climatic Changes Following It
It is natural for us to forget how variable the earth’s climate has been centuries ago, across different geological time frames. The main reason behind it is the extent of such variability is beyond our imagination. Can you picture the earth as a big ball of ice, from the North Pole to the South Pole? No matter how difficult it is to imagine the earth shrouded in ice entirely, the truth is the oldest and longest period of glaciations existed for three hundred million years. Yes, we are talking about the Great Ice Age.
What is an Ice Age?
We can define an Ice Age as a prolonged period of decrease in the Earth’s temperature, resulting in the expansion of ice sheets as well as alpine glaciers in polar regions. An ice age is characterized by the presence of huge sheets of ice or glaciers in the Southern Hemisphere and the Northern Hemisphere and extremely cold climate throughout the year. There are remains of glaciers from the previous ice age in places like Antarctica and Greenland.
What gives birth to an ice age?
An ice age is not something that happens overnight. These ages have shaped the geography and history, but what factors result in the formation of one such age?
If in the northern hemisphere, temperatures in summer remain below the freezing point for thousands of years, an ice age begins. The earth’s orbit and tilt affect which areas get minimum sun rays.
The previous ice age:
The Earth has witnessed at least five ages with glaciers covering significant portions of the planet over a period of 4.6 billion years. The Pleistocene Epoch started nearly 2.6 million years from now and has ended 11,700 years ago. Humans evolved in the Pleistocene Epoch and inhabited almost all regions of the planet towards the end of it. The stage that followed it is currently known as the Holocene Epoch.
How was the climate during the Great Ice Age?
The climate used to be drier and colder during the Great Ice Age. Since most areas were covered with enormous sheets of ice, the rainfall was at least fifty percent less than current times. There were summers and winters, but the cooler summers failed to melt the ice. The average temperature of the Earth was 12 degrees approximately, not enough to melt snow in northern regions. As the snow piled up on the snow, glaciers formed.
Life on earth in the Ice Age
Even if human beings evolved, several species of large mammals became extinct due to the harsh climate of the Ice Age. One of the primary sources of information about the existence of life during this period in Los Angeles’ La Brea Tar Pits. Remains of plant life, insects, animals, and human skeletons are preserved here. Some of the animals inhabiting the Earth at that time were woolly mammoths, giant ground sloths, saber-toothed cats, and mastodons. Other mammals such as macrauchenia, tenrecs, and moonrats thrived in this era.
The latest ice age did not witness any dinosaur as they became effaced from the face of the planet millions of years before that. Crocodiles, turtles, lizards, pythons, and various other reptiles could be found. Birds also flourished, including geese, eagles, hawks, and ducks.
When it comes to vegetation, there was limited vegetation in most areas. Conifers, cypress, yews, oaks, and beeches were among the plants that survived the cold weather conditions. Prairie grasses and flowering plants such as rose, lily, and orchid could be spotted on the ground.
Approximately 13,000 years from now, seventy-five percent of the large animals of the Ice Age died out. Scientists have tried to understand for years the causes of such mass extinction. Two big reasons are vast climate change and overhunting by humans. Natural disasters in selective portions have also been responsible for wiping out large populations of animals.
Can we experience an ice age again? After learning about the Great Ice Age, if you are wondering whether we are heading into another ice age, we’ll answer your question. Scientists have pointed out that there might be another ice age in the future. However, global warming is instrumental in delaying the process. So, researchers have predicted that humans might start experiencing another ice age after at least 100,000 years.
Environmental Justice: Definition, Principles, And Importance In Today’s World
At the beginning of the 1980s in the United States of America, environmental justice became popular as a concept. It emerged as a social movement to enable the fair allocation of environmental burdens and environmental benefits.
What do we understand by the term “environmental justice”?
We can define environmental justice as meaningful involvement and fair treatment of all human beings irrespective of their color, race, income, or national origin in matters of implementation, development, and application of environmental laws, policies, and regulations. So, it stresses the equitable distribution of benefits and environmental risks, as well as rights to individuals and communities to flourish and function in society.
Among groups most affected by environmental injustice are the racial minority and the high-poverty groups. Poor people report at least 20 percent of health problems due to industrial impure air releases.
A wide range of environmental justice matters has affected African-Americans. Cancer Alley is one infamous example. The place has offices of 125 companies producing petrochemical products, impacting the lives of residents.
Indigenous groups have suffered a lot due to environmental inequality. Native Americans have been subject to abuses because of mining activities for extracting uranium in Western America.
Environmental justice and its key principles:
- Environmental Justice promotes the holiness of Mother Earth, interdependence and coexistence of all life forms, ecological unity and freedom from environmental destruction.
- Environmental justice opines that public policies should be framed free from bias or discrimination of any kind, offering justice and respect to all humans.
- Environmental justice also affirms political, cultural, economic, and environmental rights to all. Environmental Justice gives the right to all communities to take part in decision making, planning, enforcement, implementation, and evaluation as equal partners.
- It demands universal protection against perils like nuclear testing, extraction, disposal, and production of hazardous or toxic elements as all have the inborn claim to clean land, food, air, and water.
- Environmental justice is there to safeguard the rights of victims who have been subjected to environmental lawlessness. Such people are eligible for receiving quality treatment and full compensation.
- Environmental justice points out the necessity of educating existing and future generations in ecological and social matters.
- It clearly states that all workers should get a healthy and safe work environment and nobody can be forced to select unemployment or unsafe livelihood.
- It also prohibits military occupation, exploitation, and repression of peoples, cultures, lands, and other forms of life on Earth.
- Last, but not the least, environmental justice also requests us, the individuals, to make sensible choices when it comes to consumption of Mother Earth’s resources and produces less waste. We should make healthy lifestyle choices for the sake of future generations and the healing of the natural world.
Why do we need environmental justice?
- Our relationship with the environment- It defines the relationship of human beings with the environment. Empowerment makes us realize that preserving and protecting the environment is mandatory for protecting humans and other life forms.
- Sustainability- It is only through environmental justice that we can comprehend sustainability. Sustainability tells us that how to utilize renewable resources and reduce our dependence on non-renewable sources of energy.
- Conservation of resources- It also highlights the significance of fair usage and conservation of natural resources. Unfair distribution can lead to acute scarcity of resources in several areas.
- Fair distribution- It also increases awareness about the fair distribution of the resources of the planet. Justice applies whenever one group has more resources as opposed to another, also when one person attempts to take resources from the environment of another person.
- Strengthens environmental policies- Another positive aspect of environmental justice is that it reinforces environmental policies, regulations, and laws. Justice is of two types, namely, procedural justice and consequential justice. Environmental justice’s principles give strength to laws by advocating equal use of resources for all.
Environmental justice is of supreme importance in its struggle for maintenance and improvement of a healthy and clean environment for all, and especially for the weaker sections of the society who have been surviving closest to pollution sources. The Exxon Valdez disaster of 1989, 1972’s Pittston coal incident, and case against Chevron Refining in 1993 are notable instances from the past of environmental justice applied for the welfare of wronged citizens.
Canadian Environmental Policy: Workings And Impacts
Each government has its own way of dealing with things. However, almost all the governments of Canada invested equally in order to maintain the environmental harmony intact and keep the rich biodiversity of Canada alive. In order to deal with the serious concerns of climate change and maintain the air and water clean, Canada has taken aid from many global partnerships. Canadian Environmental Policy works on the basis of those contracts and deals.
Environmental Crisis of Canada:
There are various issues related to the environment that Canada is facing-
- Canada’s one of the biggest sources of income is the Oil and Gas industry. However, it contributes a lot to the harmful greenhouse gas emissions as well.
- The air in the cities is of really poor quality.
- There is plenty of fresh water available in Canada. However, the constant usage of that water has started ruining the biodiversity altogether.
All these problems have made Canada face the crisis of climate change more strongly than ever. That is why; the workings of Canadian Environmental Policy have become more than necessary with time.
There are many international agreements that have helped the Canadian government form the structure of Canadian Environmental Policy.
- UN Framework Convention on Climate Change:
UNFCC was formed in order to address the issues related to climate change. There are almost 195 parties involved in this treaty. Canada’s contribution here is to provide data related to greenhouse gas emissions. Canada also plays the part in properly by taking proper steps to reduce gas emission. It also helps other countries from the third world to fight climate change with the aid of resources.
- Paris Climate Agreement:
195 nations signed the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015 with the aim of keeping the issue of global warming under control. The goal was to limit the increase of temperature within 1.5 degrees Celsius from the earlier 2 degrees Celsius on a yearly basis.
- Climate and Clean Air Coalition:
This partnership was made between the government, the public, and the private sectors. The aim of this partnership is to replace the short-lived climate pollutants or better known as SLCP. These pollutants are extremely harmful to the health of the planet as they belong to the group of greenhouse gasses. Not only that, but they are also responsible for global warming and poor quality of air as well.
- Global Methane Initiative:
This international association seeks to reduce methane pollution. Another aim is to use methane as a source of energy. GMI takes special notice of all the production and consumption systems of oil and gas, agriculture, sewage system of the municipality, etc.
Apart from international partnerships, the Canadian government has taken several steps on its own as well.
- Clean Air and Climate Change Act:
This act is actually an amendment to the Environment Protection Act. According to this act, greenhouse gasses are a threat to both the environment and the health of human beings.
- Energy Efficiency Act:
The Energy Efficiency Act helps the government to regulate the import and export of products that consume energy. According to this Act, any product that consumes energy must be appropriate according to Canadian rules in order to get into Canada. Another aim of this Act is to use alternative sources of energy more and more.
- Regulatory Framework for Air Emissions:
The aim here is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants responsible for corrupting the air quality. The Industrial sector, transportation, consumer products, indoor air quality- these are the main four aspects for which this framework is dedicated to.
Canadian Environmental Protection Act:
This Act was established in 1999. This Act was immensely important for it made the government more empowered to use its full potential for protecting the health of both the environment and human beings. Canadian Environmental Protection Act established a proper standard for protecting the environment.
Apart from these, there are several other acts in work as well- The National Energy Board Act, Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, Environmental Assessment Act, Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act, and many more.
All these acts work together to create a proper environmental policy and help Canada deal with climate change issues and other problems associated with it.
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