Too much of a Greta thing? Activist urges focus on others

Greta Thunberg handed stage over to other young activists at U.N. climate meeting

Climate activist Greta Thunberg takes part in a news conference at the COP25 climate summit in Madrid, Spain, Monday, Dec. 9, 2019. Thunberg is in Madrid where a global U.N.-sponsored climate change conference is taking place. (AP Photo/Andrea Comas)

Climate activist Greta Thunberg takes part in a news conference at the COP25 climate summit in Madrid, Spain, Monday, Dec. 9, 2019. Thunberg is in Madrid where a global U.N.-sponsored climate change conference is taking place. (AP Photo/Andrea Comas)

With dozens of cameras pointing at her across a room full of reporters, celebrity teen environmentalist Greta Thunberg had an unexpected message: Look the other way.

“Our stories have been told over and over again,” the 16-year-old Swede said, explaining why she and prominent German activist Luisa Neubauer would be handing over the stage at the U.N. climate meeting in Madrid to other young activists.

“It’s really about them,” Thunberg added of the young activists from developing countries already facing the effects of climate change, including violent storms, droughts and rising sea levels. “We talk about our future, they talk about their present.”

Thunberg has become the face of the youth climate movement, drawing large crowds with her appearances at protests and conferences over the past year and a half.

Veteran campaigners and scientists have welcomed her activism, including her combative speeches challenging world leaders to do more to stop global warming. But some say that it’s time to put the spotlight on other young activists who also have a strong story to tell about climate change.

“Greta and other youth leaders have been an incredible inspiration and catalyzed a whole group of young people,” said Jennifer Morgan, the executive director of Greenpeace International. “And I think that the media needs to do a better job at covering that.”

Thunberg and those close to her appeared to agree.

READ MORE: Adults must protect kids from climate change, Greta Thunberg says during Vancouver rally

Neubauer, a 23-year-old who has become the face of the Fridays for Future student movement in Germany, said the focus on her and Thunberg was “incredibly disproportionate.”

Thunberg was met by a crowd of cameras as she arrived in Portugal last week, having sailed back to Europe to avoid air travel for environmental reasons. On Friday, she left a protest march through the Spanish capital early after being mobbed by crowds of protesters and reporters.

“We want to break this up,” Neubauer told The Associated Press.

Thunberg said she felt a “moral duty” to use the media’s attention to promote others who have struggled to get the limelight.

“It is people especially from the global south, especially from indigenous communities, who need to tell their stories,” she said before handing the microphone to young environmentalists from around the globe.

Among them was Kisha Erah Muaña, a 23-year-old activist from the Philippines, who called on global leaders to take “robust and lasting action” against climate change.

“We are talking about lives and survival here,” she said.

READ MORE: Greta Thunberg calls for climate action in Alberta, but doesn’t talk oilsands

Some stressed the risks they are exposing themselves to for speaking out on climate change.

“I am from Russia, where everyone can be arrested for anything,” said Arshak Makichyan, a 25-year-old violinist from Moscow. “But I am not afraid to be arrested. I’m afraid not to do enough.”

Thunberg’s angry accusations that world leaders are failing the younger generation have made headlines, including her shouts of “How dare you?” at the U.N. General Assembly earlier this year. However, politicians have, by and large, praised Thunberg and her movement as an important voice of her generation.

“We have all of the youth around the world that are marching and calling to our conscience. And they have moral authority,” said former Vice-President Al Gore, calling Thunberg “an absolutely fantastic leader.”

Other young activists now being propelled to the fore may find more push-back for their views.

Rose Whipple, 18, a community organizer from Minnesota who has taken part in the Standing Rock protests against the Dakota Access oil pipeline, linked the issue of climate change to broader political concerns, including racism and long-standing grievances among indigenous groups.

“We deserve to be listened to and we also deserve to have our lands back,” said Whipple, wearing a sweatshirt with the words “Destroy white supremacy.”

Morgan, of Greenpeace, said she hoped attention would shift “to others who are living on the front line of climate impacts, who are trying to mobilize and push their governments as well.”

“And I hope that can be the beginning of showing the world the very, very diverse set of young people who are desperate for leadership coming from their governments,” she said.

Frank Jordans And Aritz Parra, The Associated Press

READ MORE: Greta Thunberg meets with First Nations chief in Fort McMurray

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Lake Cowichan Legion received federal funding in December, 2020 to help the organization weather the COVID-19 pandemic. (Submitted)
Lake Cowichan Legion receives federal COVID-19 assistance funding

Can be used for expenses such as insurance, utilities, rent or mortgages, property taxes, and wages.

Tim Schewe
Drivesmart column: Do you know someone who should not be driving?

We are currently living about 10 years longer than our ability to drive safely.

Chris Wilkinson
Chris Wilkinson column: Time to slow down to speed up

In a society where we learn (are forced?) to multitask like crazy

A COVID-19 exposure has been reported at Shawnigan Lake School. (Citizen file photo)
UPDATED: Island Health reports COVID-19 exposure at Shawnigan Lake School

Shawnigan Lake School has been added to the list of schools in… Continue reading

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

It pins the blame largely on a lack of supports, a corrupted drug supply

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

The sky above Mt. Benson in Nanaimo is illuminated by flares as search and rescuers help an injured hiker down the mountain to a waiting ambulance. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Search and Rescue)
Search plane lights up Nanaimo mountain with flares during icy rope rescue

Rescuers got injured hiker down Mt. Benson to a waiting ambulance Saturday night

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

From the left: Midway RCMP Csts. Jonathan Stermscheg and Chris Hansen, Public Servant Leanne Mclaren and Cpl. Phil Peters. Pictured in the front are Mclaren’s dog, Lincoln and Peters’ dog, Angel. Photo courtesy of BC RCMP
B.C. Mounties commended for bringing firewood to elderly woman

Cpl. Phil Peters said he and detachment members acted after the woman’s husband went to hospital

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

An Uber driver’s vehicle is seen after the company launched service, in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Several taxi companies have lost a court bid to run Uber and Lyft off the road in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Taxi companies lose court bid to quash Uber, Lyft approvals in British Columbia

Uber said in a statement that the ruling of the justice is clear and speaks for itself

Most Read