Climate change has in recent years been associated with the work of Swedish climate warrior Greta Thunberg. Thunberg serves as the leader as well as the face of the Youth Climate Strikes that take place everywhere around the world from Mongolia to Australia to Nigeria, according to the Fridays For Future website.
Her bravery and unwavering honesty have been her battle cry, igniting passion and empathy within thousands, even millions, globally. Yet, despite the mostly positive media attention her work has brought to the global climate change movement, her rise to popularity is rather controversial within the environmental activist community.
For one, her brutal words in the speech at the United Nations Youth Climate Summit last year polarized the issue and though her heartfelt speech went viral amongst like-minded and supportive youth and adults, it did little to convince the very global leaders at the summit to take radical actions to push towards the UN 2030 goals, according to CNBC.
Her rise to popularity has also been subject to scrutiny. The idea to have youth at the forefront of the climate movement is not a new or innovative one. Other movements including Zero Hour, Earth Guardian and the Green Hope Foundation all of which were founded before Fridays For Future are also youth-led international movements, but they are often erased from the narrative, according to the Guardian.
It is important to note that all of the three organizations are founded and led by people of color. Thunberg represents the ideal supported by the media.
Although she has faced several setbacks, she is nonetheless still rich, white and young: everything that the media wants to show a spotlight on. I applaud Thunberg for using her white privilege as well as her rich privilege (she is the daughter of a famous actor and opera singer).
However, as a WOC youth climate activist, I am disappointed that she does not regularly remind her supporters of people of color activists that paved the way for her. The heavy media attention on Thunberg erases the work BIPOC has been doing for decades, as these communities are at the forefront of suffering from the consequences of environmental degradation.
This is detrimental to continuously-silenced communities. This is more than a matter of giving credit; this is a matter of discrimination in the media.
Though Thunberg has occasionally spoken out about environmental racism, as someone with strong influence, one retweet is not enough to support a growing revolution.
Greta Thunberg, I am calling on you to uplift the voices that raised you to your influence. All of the voices. Your support could be a catalyst for expanding monumental movements and strengthen the environmental movement, which is the ultimate goal we are all striving towards.