People are realising ‘we cannot keep looking away from these things’, says climate activist
Greta Thunberg has said the Black Lives Matter protests show society has reached a tipping point where injustice can no longer be ignored, but that she believes a “green recovery plan” from the coronavirus pandemic will not be enough to solve the climate crisis.
Reflecting on the protests that have swept the globe in recent weeks, the Swedish climate activist told the BBC: “It feels like we have passed some kind of social tipping point where people are starting to realise that we cannot keep looking away from these things. We cannot keep sweeping these things under the carpet, these injustices.
“People are starting to find their voice, to sort of understand that they can actually have an impact.”
The coronavirus pandemic had given her hope by showing those in power are able to act when faced with an emergency, but the climate crisis needed to be treated with the same urgency, she said.
“It shows that in a crisis, you act, and you act with necessary force,” she said. “Suddenly people in power are saying they will do whatever it takes since you cannot put a price on human life.
“The main message that underlines everything we [as climate activists] do is, ‘Listen to the science, listen to the experts’, and all of a sudden you hear everyone everywhere is saying that. It feels like the corona crisis has changed the role of science in our society.”
The 17-year-old has been using her time in lockdown to study, despite taking a sabbatical year from school to travel and campaign on the climate crisis. She sailed across the Atlantic last year to attend UN climate summits, eventually ending up in Madrid to address talks originally to have been hosted in Chile.
“I thought I’m just home anyway, so I might as well just jump in the class … in my free time, as a bonus. It doesn’t really count, but I love studying so much,” she said. “I’m really the last one to complain because I haven’t been that affected by this.”
She has also used her time to produce a radio programme, Humanity has not yet failed, reflecting on some of her experiences and meetings over the last year and looking at some of the challenges the world faces in tackling the environmental crisis.
“The climate and ecological crisis cannot be solved within today’s political and economic systems,” she said. “That isn’t an opinion. That’s a fact.”