From Greta to Severn, children want a better future – covid-19 or not?

By Asitha Jayawardena

Greta Thunberg
By European Parliament from EU – Greta Thunberg at the Parliament, CC BY 2.0,

Children have taken the lead role in climate change.

In August 2018 Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg, then 15, spent outside the Swedish parliament and asking a tougher action on climate change while holding a sign ‘School Strike for Climate’.

Severn Suzuki

Severn Suzuki
By Nick Wiebe – Own work, CC BY 2.5,

But what about Severn? Is she Greta’s friend?

Well, Severn was a child – 28 years ago!

It was on 11 June 1992, at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, a 12-year-old Severn delivered a 5-minute speech which reverberated not only in her Canada but also around the world.

And then, Greta was about ten years to be born at this 1992 Rio Earth Summit.

It was the first time that a child has spoken on stronger action on climate change in 1992 and what we did – ignored her!

At that time, “The Girl Who Silenced the World for 5 Minutes” was referring to the issues that we should not forget. We still ignored her.

“I am fighting for my future,” Severn said, “Losing my future is not like losing an election, or a few points on the stock market. I am here to speak for all generations to come.”

“We hear of animals and plants going extinct every day, vanishing forever,” she pleaded. “Did you have to worry of these things when you were my age?”

“All this is happening before our eyes and yet we act as if we have all the time we want and all the solutions,” she voiced.

“I’m only a child and I don’t have all the solutions, but I want you to realise, neither do you,” she was more determined. “If you don’t know how to fix it, please stop breaking it.”

This is not the 2020-talk but in 1992, 28 years ago. Still we ignored it.

In the meantime, Severn graduated from Yale University in 2002, married and lives with her husband and two sons in British Columbia. At 40 years now, she has gone through the climate change from her end.

Greta Thunberg

Recently, as the coronavirus was gradually expanding in Italy, Greta Thunberg, born in 2003, visited Bristol in the end of February 2020.

In her 5-minute speech, Greta said that people are already suffering and dying in the consequences in an emergency of climate change.

“They sweep their mess under the rug for us young people, their children, to clean up for them,” she said. “Activism works. So, I am telling you to act.”

“We are being betrayed by those who are in power. And they are failing us. We will not be silenced,” she voiced her concern. “We are the change!”

“And change is coming weather you like it or not!”

And the “Greta effect” proposed by the UK newspapers is in full swing and she has received many awards, including Time Person of the Year, inclusion of the Forbes list of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women (2019) and nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 and 2020.

In this light, are we going to ignore Greta Thunberg?

Greta and Severn

Greta and Severn met last year, 2019, and the 27 years of the battle of the children remains the same.

Even if we ignore Greta, someone will come in 20 years. Who knows?