Out of the Mouths of Teenagers

Greta Thurnberg accusing world leaders of not acting on climate change
Greta Thurnberg (2003 – )

Greta Thurnberg, a 15-year old from Sweden, gave the following speech to the comfortable “adults” at the COP24 Conference in Poland in 2018.


My name is Greta Thunberg. I am 15 years old. I am from Sweden.

I speak on behalf of Climate Justice Now.

Many people say that Sweden is just a small country and it doesn’t matter what we do.

But I’ve learned you are never too small to make a difference.

And if a few children can get headlines all over the world just by not going to school, then imagine what we could all do together if we really wanted to. But to do that, we have to speak clearly, no matter how uncomfortable that may be.

You only speak of green eternal economic growth because you are too scared of being unpopular. You only talk about moving forward with the same bad ideas that got us into this mess, even when the only sensible thing to do is pull the emergency brake.

You are not mature enough to tell it like is. Even that burden you leave to us children. But I don’t care about being popular. I care about climate justice and the living planet.

Our civilization is being sacrificed for the opportunity of a very small number of people to continue making enormous amounts of money.

Our biosphere is being sacrificed so that rich people in countries like mine can live in luxury. It is the sufferings of the many which pay for the luxuries of the few.
The year 2078, I will celebrate my 75th birthday. If I have children maybe they will spend that day with me. Maybe they will ask me about you. Maybe they will ask why you didn’t do anything while there still was time to act.

You say you love your children above all else, and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes.

Until you start focusing on what needs to be done rather than what is politically possible, there is no hope. We cannot solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis.

We need to keep the fossil fuels in the ground, and we need to focus on equity. And if solutions within the system are so impossible to find, maybe we should change the system itself.

We have not come here to beg world leaders to care. You have ignored us in the past and you will ignore us again.

We have run out of excuses and we are running out of time.

We have come here to let you know that change is coming, whether you like it or not. The real power belongs to the people.

Thank you.


So what is this young person telling we “adults”.

  • Speaking as a young person living in a country with little economic power, she says that she, and people like her, still have power.
  • She speaks clearly — no fudging around about “sustainable growth”.
  • She speaks for the many poor people who suffer disproportionately from the ravages of climate change. She is not self-centered.
  • She sarcastically talks about “green eternal growth”. She seems to have a better grasp of the second law than people three times her age.
  • She makes the obvious statement that a continuation of the bad actions that got us into this mess is not a good idea. She does not use Einstein’s famous remark, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we crated them” — but she could have done.
  • She tells the world “leaders” that they are not mature. They leave all the hard decisions to the young people.
  • She challenges the economic system that benefits the very rich at the expense of the life of the planet.
  • Her comment about how she will talk about people like us when she is 75 is reminiscent of the famous Kitchener proposal (which, incidentally, worked — it persuaded many young men to join the army at the start of World War I).
Kitechener. Your Country Needs You.
Lord Kitchener (1850 – 1916)
  • She accuses us of hypocrisy — she says that we don’t love our children enough to make real sacrifices in our lifestyles.
  • She says that “we are running out of time”. In this she is actually incorrect — we have already run out of time. But maybe she was being tactful.
  • Change is coming — like it or not.
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