Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish environmental activist, first became known when she started her school climate strike movement in 2018. Greta addressed the United Nations Climate Change Conference also in 2018 and has had a swift rise to fame because of her blunt matter of fact speaking manner and unvarnished truth telling.
At Shine we would like to think that a young woman who is passionate about stopping and speaking up about her concerns regarding an impending climate crisis would be applauded for her drive, strength and commitment.
We tell our students that persistence, lack of fear, being prepared to fail and pick yourself back up again, speaking out against injustice, being strong, valuing yourself and others, supporting others who cannot support themselves, being confident in your abilities and beliefs and understanding of the beliefs of others are all things to aspire to.
So why has there been such a huge backlash to Greta on social media? Negative comments on her age, appearance, her mental health or that she is a parent led puppet seem to be commonplace on twitter and you tube.
We tell our young people to stand up, be individual, believe that they can achieve with persistence and hard work but in doing this Greta has not been accepted and encouraged in fact she has been rejected by many adults.
I think it is about time we ask ourselves if the message we are giving our young people is lip service or reality. Have we lied to our young people? Do we claim to want to hear their perspectives only dismiss them as irrelevant because of their age or do we want to take them seriously with equality and an understanding that young people have as much to offer society as adults?
Yes, the young are often impetuous, passionate and black and white but these perceived faults can also be their biggest strengths lost to us adults as we become older and more cautious and reserved.
Regardless of our stance on climate change, we should be building up our young people not tearing them down, we should be guiding and encouraging new thoughts and ideas rather than dismissing them. Insults have no place in debate.
Each generation should facilitate the younger ones to think bigger and achieve more than they did. These young people are our future leaders. Set the example now, encourage them not just with words but with action and support so that they can make a difference in the world to come.