Greta Thunberg and the school strike for climate movement


Greta Thunberg and the school strike for climate movement[1]


April 16, the same day as Alberta’s recent provincial election, Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish schoolgirl, addressed the European Union’s parliament.

“You need to listen to us, we who cannot vote,” she said. “You need to vote for us, for your children and grandchildren. What we are doing now can soon no longer be undone. In this election you vote for the future living conditions for humankind.”[2]

From a narrow Canadian perspective, it was as though she was asking Albertans not to double down on fossil fuels and the status quo. But the election she was referring to is the one upcoming for the European Union. Still, the juxtaposition with Alberta, with the choices we make in this country, should not be ignored, just as we should not ignore the burning on April 15 of Notre-Dame de Paris, which Thunberg also referenced.

“Some buildings are more than just buildings,” she told the parliamentarians.[3] They are symbols of human creativity and connection, and of aspiration and what we hold sacred.

Thunberg has become an important international figure in the last few months. She initiated “the school strike for climate movement” in November, which took off in cities across the world following the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, held in Poland in December.[4]

She received a special “Climate Protection Award” at the 2019 Golden Camera German film and television awards in Berlin on March 30.

Speaking without notes, she told the gathered luminaries, “We live in a strange world where the united science tells us that we are about eleven years away from setting off an irreversible chain reaction way beyond human control that will probably be the end of our civilization as we know it. We live in a strange world where children must sacrifice their education in order to protest against the destruction of their future, where the people who have contributed the least to this crisis are the ones who are going to be affected the most.”[5]

To emphasize her point, she noted that “a football game or a film gala gets more media attention than the biggest crisis humanity has ever faced.”[6]

She received loud applause when she told EU parliamentarians that there have been “three emergency Brexit summits” but “no emergency summit regarding the breakdown of the climate.”[7]

Her grief-laden voice quavered when she enumerated, “Erosion of fertile top soil, deforestation of our great forests, toxic air pollution, loss of insects and wildlife, the acidification of our oceans: these are all disastrous trends being accelerated by a way of life that we, here in our financially fortunate part of the world, see as our right to simply carry on.”[8]

It is an appalling fact that we have “managed to kill off sixty per cent of the world’s wildlife since 1970 by destroying their habitats.”[9]

“Everyone and everything has to change,” Thunberg stressed to the parliamentarians. “But the bigger your platform, the bigger your responsibility; the bigger your carbon footprint, the bigger your moral duty.”[10]

As she said in Berlin, “We are now standing at a crossroads in history. We are failing, but we have not yet failed.”[11]

“It will take cathedral thinking,” she told both the parliamentarians and the people of this precious, spinning blue planet.[12]

An author and historian, Patrick Wolfe lives in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

  1. A version of this article, “New thinking needed to fight climate battle,” appeared in the Victoria Times Colonist, Sunday, April 28, 2019, p. D4.
  2. – 10:10
  3. Ibid. – 1:23
  4. Wikipedia –
  5. – 0:50
  6. Ibid. – 3:11
  7. – 6:30
  8. Ibid. – 4:25
  9. Bill McKibben, “Life on a Shrinking Planet: With wildfires, heat waves, and rising sea levels, large tracts of the earth are at risk of becoming uninhabitable,” The New Yorker, November 26, 2018, 51.
  10. – 8:38
  11. – 5:13
  12. – 11:32


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