Editor’s Note: Greta Thunberg is a young climate change activist from Sweden recently touring Canada.
As someone who wrestled with my vote in the recent Canadian election, I know my choice wasn’t the one you or millions of other climate activists would forgive me for.
I have no problem accepting the science. Climate change is happening. We see it every winter in the North – warmer temperatures (-35 rather than -45 in 30 years) and melting permafrost. Have humans caused climate change? When I think of all the millions of people in the cities driving cars and trucks on congested freeways, living and working in mountainous buildings, suburbs sprawling endlessly to horizons, all burning energy every second, minute, hour, day, we are surely hurting the planet. Cleaner energy, less waste, there’s no argument, the time to begin is past, the time to do it is now.
But the people who sat at your feet to learn and support your message in our Canadian cities drove there in something, or they viewed you on one of the handheld devices that represent the pinnacle of our energy-based technology. They will go back to homes heated with oil or gas. They will eat food that sucked up energy from conception/germination on farms to slaughter/harvest in processing plants to plastic packaging and trucked delivery to the refrigerated counters of our stores.
This truth of who we are is causing damage to the Earth. We are encouraged at every turn to buy, to consume, even to feel need where there is none. The people who hold you up as a prophet embody this rampant consumerism every time they go on their phone to support your climate change creed. This apparent hypocrisy in no way diminishes the truth of your climate change crusade. Instead, you and your army of activists should understand your family, friends and neighbours, your country, have all bought into this crippling consumerism whether they like it or not, just to survive.
Scolding may garner headlines. Pitting the young against the old also works to fuel the cause. But real change requires role modelling and compromise. Attacking the Canadian oil industry without regard to to the families of the workers it supports and the far greater number of middle and lower income families who you want to pay for combating climate change, well, that could lead to extreme civil unrest and an outcome of the survival of the wealthiest – generally those who benefit most from rampant consumerism.
No compromises leads to oil tankers coming into Eastern Canadian ports imported from overseas and and oil laden train cars across the country (remember Lac-Mégantic?). So as much as I wanted to vote the way you and my children wanted me to, the duty to acknowledge reality weighs heavier. Pipelines are not the enemy, consumerism is. Help us fight that plague by encouraging us to feel good about living more efficiently, cleaner, having less and making do with what we need. Health is happiness, for the Earth, for our country, for ourselves. That is a message we can all get behind.
Thanks for listening and please write back. Perhaps sometime in the future, there will be a way you can come visit the North without using carbon producing vehicles. You can do that now with either dog teams or canoes but you might be off the grid for longer than your disciples would like.