Greta Thunberg: ‘Act as if your life depended on it, because it does’

May 31, 2019
Greta Thunberg at the Global Strike for Climate in Stockholm, Sweden on May 24.

Hundreds of thousands of students and environmentalists took to the streets around the world as part of the Global Strike for Future climate actions on May 24. Elections for the European Parliament took place two days later, on May 26 and resulted in Greens (along with the far right) gaining votes.

In Copenhagen, Denmark, 40,000 people took part in the People’s Climate March on May 25. Swedish student and environmentalist Greta Thunberg addressed the rally. An abridged transcript of Thunberg’s speech follows.

* * *

It is absolutely crazy that things have gone so far that children feel like they must sacrifice their education to compensate for the inaction of our leaders and most adults.

In about two weeks you have elections in Denmark and tomorrow across Europe there are elections to the European Parliament.

There are about 508 million people living in the European Union (EU) and we use … about one fifth of the world’s resources. What we do in the EU has enormous impact for future living conditions for this planet.

We are facing an existential threat and time is rapidly running out. Unless we have cut our emissions by at least 50% within the next 10 years, 220 days and about 10 hours — it is likely that we will set off an irreversible chain reaction beyond human control. And note that these figures do not include tipping points, feedback loops, already built-in warming hidden by toxic air pollution, nor the aspect of equity in the Paris Agreement.

These calculations are, however, depending upon technical solutions that are yet to be invented at scale.

According to the united science this will require unprecedented changes in all aspects of society, starting today.

If the EU really decided to face the ongoing climate emergency and try to act with the necessary force, then this would have a huge global impact.

Of course, you would think the EU election should be about this. But it is not.

Of course, you would think we would try to stop our emissions. But we are not.

In fact, global emissions are still rising, despite all the beautiful words and promises of our leaders and politicians. Beautiful words like Carbon Neutral Copenhagen 2025. It sounds really good. But if being carbon neutral does not include transportation, shopping, food, aviation and shipping, then it doesn’t really mean that much.

In fact, sending these messages that suggest that real action is going on, when it really is not, probably does more harm than good.

Lowering our emissions is far from enough. Our emissions have to stop if we are to stay below the 1.5 or 2 degree warming limit.

For this we can no longer settle for isolated specific actions.

For this we need to look at the full picture.

For this we need to treat the emergency like an emergency.

For this we need a whole new way of thinking.

If everyone lived like we do in Sweden, Denmark and the EU, then it would already be too late to stay below the 1.5° or 2° limit. If everyone lived like we do, then we would already be much closer to irreversible, hothouse Earth.

So, instead of blaming others and telling them what they should be doing, we should instead be leading the way, just like we signed up for in the Paris Agreement.

Our upcoming elections should all be about this, because this could be the last chance we have to start the transformation required.

We can still fix this, but to do so, we must start today.

Those who are going to be affected the most by the climate and ecological crisis — young people like me — cannot vote. So if not for yourself, then vote for us.

I can’t say enough how important these elections are, but we have to acknowledge that we already know the outcome… and since almost no one is aware of the full consequences of the climate crisis, then people won’t care about this when they go to vote.

So we mustn’t be disappointed when we see the results.

We must bear in mind that the fight doesn’t end here. This is just the beginning.

Everyone and everything needs to change, so why waste precious time arguing about who and what should change first. Everyone and everything needs to change, but the bigger your platform, the bigger your responsibility — the bigger your carbon footprint, the bigger your responsibility.

Our house is on fire … we should get angry and transform that anger into action … act as if your life depended on it, because it does.

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