Too much of a Greta thing? Activist urges focus on others

Greta Thunberg handed stage over to other young activists at U.N. climate meeting

Climate activist Greta Thunberg takes part in a news conference at the COP25 climate summit in Madrid, Spain, Monday, Dec. 9, 2019. Thunberg is in Madrid where a global U.N.-sponsored climate change conference is taking place. (AP Photo/Andrea Comas)

With dozens of cameras pointing at her across a room full of reporters, celebrity teen environmentalist Greta Thunberg had an unexpected message: Look the other way.

“Our stories have been told over and over again,” the 16-year-old Swede said, explaining why she and prominent German activist Luisa Neubauer would be handing over the stage at the U.N. climate meeting in Madrid to other young activists.

“It’s really about them,” Thunberg added of the young activists from developing countries already facing the effects of climate change, including violent storms, droughts and rising sea levels. “We talk about our future, they talk about their present.”

Thunberg has become the face of the youth climate movement, drawing large crowds with her appearances at protests and conferences over the past year and a half.

Veteran campaigners and scientists have welcomed her activism, including her combative speeches challenging world leaders to do more to stop global warming. But some say that it’s time to put the spotlight on other young activists who also have a strong story to tell about climate change.

“Greta and other youth leaders have been an incredible inspiration and catalyzed a whole group of young people,” said Jennifer Morgan, the executive director of Greenpeace International. “And I think that the media needs to do a better job at covering that.”

Thunberg and those close to her appeared to agree.

READ MORE: Adults must protect kids from climate change, Greta Thunberg says during Vancouver rally

Neubauer, a 23-year-old who has become the face of the Fridays for Future student movement in Germany, said the focus on her and Thunberg was “incredibly disproportionate.”

Thunberg was met by a crowd of cameras as she arrived in Portugal last week, having sailed back to Europe to avoid air travel for environmental reasons. On Friday, she left a protest march through the Spanish capital early after being mobbed by crowds of protesters and reporters.

“We want to break this up,” Neubauer told The Associated Press.

Thunberg said she felt a “moral duty” to use the media’s attention to promote others who have struggled to get the limelight.

“It is people especially from the global south, especially from indigenous communities, who need to tell their stories,” she said before handing the microphone to young environmentalists from around the globe.

Among them was Kisha Erah Muaña, a 23-year-old activist from the Philippines, who called on global leaders to take “robust and lasting action” against climate change.

“We are talking about lives and survival here,” she said.

READ MORE: Greta Thunberg calls for climate action in Alberta, but doesn’t talk oilsands

Some stressed the risks they are exposing themselves to for speaking out on climate change.

“I am from Russia, where everyone can be arrested for anything,” said Arshak Makichyan, a 25-year-old violinist from Moscow. “But I am not afraid to be arrested. I’m afraid not to do enough.”

Thunberg’s angry accusations that world leaders are failing the younger generation have made headlines, including her shouts of “How dare you?” at the U.N. General Assembly earlier this year. However, politicians have, by and large, praised Thunberg and her movement as an important voice of her generation.

“We have all of the youth around the world that are marching and calling to our conscience. And they have moral authority,” said former Vice-President Al Gore, calling Thunberg “an absolutely fantastic leader.”

Other young activists now being propelled to the fore may find more push-back for their views.

Rose Whipple, 18, a community organizer from Minnesota who has taken part in the Standing Rock protests against the Dakota Access oil pipeline, linked the issue of climate change to broader political concerns, including racism and long-standing grievances among indigenous groups.

“We deserve to be listened to and we also deserve to have our lands back,” said Whipple, wearing a sweatshirt with the words “Destroy white supremacy.”

Morgan, of Greenpeace, said she hoped attention would shift “to others who are living on the front line of climate impacts, who are trying to mobilize and push their governments as well.”

“And I hope that can be the beginning of showing the world the very, very diverse set of young people who are desperate for leadership coming from their governments,” she said.

Frank Jordans And Aritz Parra, The Associated Press

READ MORE: Greta Thunberg meets with First Nations chief in Fort McMurray

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Not everybody lined up to vote on Saturday. In Surrey, 68,396 mail-in ballots still need to be counted for the final election tally. (Black Press Media)
North Surrey voters steer left, South Surrey voters steer right

Once again, it’s NDP orange in the city’s north end, Liberal red in the south

Peace Portal Alliance Church, at the corner of King George Boulevard and 152 Street, is the extreme-weather shelter for South Surrey for the upcoming season. It is to have 14 mats available nightly for those experiencing homelessness, regardless of weather conditions. (Tracy Holmes photo)
14 beds planned for South Surrey extreme-weather shelter

Webinar tonight to field questions, share info on Peace Portal Alliance Church refuge

Fraser Health declared an outbreak of COVID-19 at Delta Hospital on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020. (Grace Kennedy photo)
Outbreak over at Delta Hospital

In all, 45 cases of COVID-19 were identified and seven patients died during the outbreak

The Sunshine Band Club video posted to Youtube.
VIDEO: Surrey youth band shines light on ‘COVID blues,’ raises money for hospital

Virtual concert from Sunshine Band Club, established last March

FILE – Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides the latest update on the COVID-19 pandemic in the province during a press conference in the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, October 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. shatters COVID-19 records with 817 weekend cases; masks now expected indoors

Three people have died over the past three reporting periods

Graphic on promo material for Best Buy Canada’s Tech Wonderland event.
Drive-through ‘Tech Wonderland’ coming to PNE site a few weeks before Christmas

Best Buy Canada-backed ‘holiday’ event to raise money for charity

Aaliyah Rosa. File photo
Crown says murder of seven-year-old in Langley was planned, deliberate

The trial of KerryAnn Lewis began Monday in New Westminster

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. (B.C. government photo)
Unnamed school in Fraser Health region closed due to COVID-19

Closure announced by Dr. Bonnie Henry during daily briefing

RCMP have released more details regarding what led up to an arrest caught on video in Williams Lake Sunday, Oct. 26. (Facebook video screenshot)
Review launched after ‘high-risk, multi-jurisdictional’ chase, arrest in Williams Lake

RCMP launching a full review and code of conduct investigation

(Pxfuel)
B.C. limits events in private homes to household, plus ‘safe six’ amid COVID-19 surge

Henry issued a public health order limiting private gatherings to one household, plus a group of ‘safe six’ only

Most Read