Show up for Greta, Little Miss Flint, & Other Teenage Political Activists

Sixteen year-old Greta Thurberg is in the news for sailing across the Atlantic to speak to the US Congress and at the United Nations General Assembly on climate change.

And she is being vilified for it by talking heads who believe she:
1 – was brainwashed into activism by her environmentalist parents;
2 – is mentally ill;
3 – should leave environmentalism to the pros, not secondary-school students.

I can’t vouch for #1 and I know for a fact that #2 is incorrect because Asperger’s is not a mental illness, but it’s that #3 that’s really getting to me.

I believe Greta would be happy to be back back in Sweden focusing on her studies and hobbies, but so far no scientist has been able to churn their way through the muck and mud that is the modern US political system to truly make a difference on this matter. If “the pros” – in this case, meaning the people in power in this country – were working towards ending our reliance on fossil fuels, decreasing the consumer’s cost of renewable energy, taxing products that cause dangerous emissions such as palm oil and cattle, and more.

But they aren’t, so she isn’t in Sweden. She’s here standing up for herself and for future generations.

Little Miss Flint is doing the same thing. Mari Copeny has been fighting for clean water in Flint, Michigan since 2016. Born in 2008, she should have been enrobed in the sweetness of elementary school; crafts, basic math, and class parties. Instead she was becoming a lead activist for her forgotten city and her forgotten neighbors, people who were being poisoned by lead in old pipes. She gained popularity when then-President Obama recognized her for reaching out to him to bring the matter to his desk. She stood up for her community’s future.

When I write for this blog or speak to groups about the development and value of teenagers, I am teaching adults to really listen to their children/customers/clients/patients. I’ve spent thirteen years in my industry, whereas thirteen years ago Greta was the age of my child who, for the record, wakes up from a nap just to pick her nose before falling back to sleep. That is to say: Greta was a toddler only a few years ago. Mari is only twelve years old today.

But Greta and Mari are just as worthy of being heard as I am. Despite our age difference, we share passion. We share a deep intrinsic need to tell others about what we know to be true. We are standing up for out truth.

Malala did it. (IS doing it.) So did Jane Goodall, Rosa Parks, Sojourner Truth, and so many others. Let us listen to our brave sisters who have truths to speak. Let us not criticize them for their age or education or skin color. Let us amplify the voices of those who stand up for the most marginalized.

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