Greta Thunberg is just one of 16 youth climate activists who, on Monday, filed a petition with the UN that demands that five countries — Germany, France, Argentina, Brazil, and Turkey — acknowledge that their failure to take decisive, necessary climate action has been a violation of children’s rights, and that things must change immediately in order to avoid perpetuating this failure. The petitioners come from all over the globe, including children from the countries in question as well as places where young people are even more vulnerable to the devastating effects of climate change, such as India, Palau, the Marshall Islands, and Alaska.
The petitioners emphasize that they are not after financial compensation for the harm done to their peers and their communities. “[No] amount of money could compensate for the harm children are and will be suffering from climate change, both now and in the future,” they write in the official petition.
Carl Smith, a 17-year-old who is a member of the Yupiaq tribe in Alaska, explained in a press conference that money is precisely what has been preventing these countries (as well as those around the world) from making the right decision when it comes to climate action. “I think they’re acting slowly because they don’t want to lose money. And I think they should go see what [climate change] is doing to little villages and cities.” Communities whose survival relies upon subsistence hunting and farming are especially at risk of being unable to adapt to a warming climate in a way that allows them to preserve their traditions and culture.
Thunberg concurred, reiterating that the point of the petition is not money. “The message that we want to send is that we’ve had enough.” Over 4 million other global climate strikers hoped to amplify that message this past Friday.
It’s a call that Thunberg brought directly to world leaders yesterday at the UN Climate Summit in New York City, offering her moving plea for change. “People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing,” she observed in her speech. “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you?” As she has done consistently since becoming a world leader in her own right, she expressed her wish for countries and their leadership to look to scientists and experts in order to know what steps to take to avoid the worst of what climate change has in store for Earth.