Some of my best moments this summer involved swimming across lakes. Despite how much I love the long-distance exercise, each swim was preceded by a ridiculous amount of time standing on the shore, working up the momentum to dive in. My mind knew the swims would be wonderful and refreshing, but every time my body somehow failed to translate that into action for almost as long as it took to do the swimming.
The Swedish teen Greta Thunberg has become an inspiration to millions of people for a multitude of reasons. But what I personally love about her is the way she highlights that moment between thinking and putting her being into motion.
I appreciate her reliance on scientific evidence, her unique and direct form of communicating and simplifying complex issues and the way she models a low-carbon lifestyle. But, it’s the image of Greta, who at the age of 15 painted a sign and walked to the Swedish parliament to sit alone in an effort to raise awareness about climate change, that swells my heart. It captures a moment of turning fear for the future into physical action.
I’m an activist myself, although I haven’t always been.
In my 20s, when I began to realize the impact that my own mainstream life was having upon the planet, I felt overwhelmed. All I wanted to do was hide under the covers. It was actually a failed protest that first showed me the power of activism.
The mere act of putting my body into motion on behalf of what I cared about, and being with other people who did the same, made the weight I was carrying feel immensely lighter.
To loosely quote the American writer Wendell Berry, we protest not only to have public success, but to preserve the qualities in our hearts and spirits that would be destroyed by acquiescence.
Greta’s school strikes have touched the world and sparked an international movement. They have raised the profile of the climate crisis to where it deserves to be: front and centre.
Most of my friends and family would not consider themselves to be activists. They have varying degrees of concern about climate change but don’t know what to do to address these concerns. They hope that technology will fix things or they turn away from the depressing issue, focusing instead on the many and varied challenges of day-to-day life.
To this end, Greta has given ordinary people concerned with the climate crisis a gift.
Greta and her peers have invited adults to join the youth-led strike for climate action on Sept. 27.
The singer Joan Baez said action is the antidote to despair. This strike gives us a chance to come together as community and take physical steps together toward a more viable future.
In this instance, Greta took the first step, and that is always the hardest one.