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Posted: March 16, 2019

Millennial girl may save us from the Anthropocene Epoch

“Perceptions,” by Gerry Warner

Op-Ed Commentary

Students in more than 100 countries around the world played hooky Friday but not for the reasons you might suspect. Believe it or not these international miscreants walked out of their classrooms because they were “on strike!”

And whom you might ask were they on strike against? Not their teachers. Not their principals. Not against anyone under the age of 30 or so.

They were on strike against a much bigger cohort of the population; virtually millions, in fact. And the object of their ire is all around us mostly indifferent to the students’ cause. And what cause could cause a teenage rebellion of this scale? The answer might surprise you but really it shouldn’t because it’s a cause that affects virtually every one of us and threatens our entire civilization.

The kids get it, but many of us so-called adults don’t, including the President of the United States and many politicians like him. Many corporate CEOs don’t get it either. Nor union members. The same could be said for many God-fearing Christian folks, especially of the fundamentalist ilk. The baby boom generation is an offender too. After all they let it happen and contributed greatly to it and profited mightily from its toxic legacy.

But the students, God bless them, do get it and in many cases thanks to their teachers who tacitly support them but are skating on the thin ice of insubordination and keeping quiet for the sake of their jobs.

By now, many of you have likely figured out what I’m talking about, namely the International Global Climate Strike organized by a 16-year-old Swedish girl in pigtails. No kidding.

On Aug. 20, 2018 Gretta Thunberg, a Grade 9 student in Stockholm, decided to stop attending school and instead every school day sat outside the Swedish legislature holding a sign protesting climate change, which had resulted in an extreme heat wave and wildfires in Sweden that summer. (Sound familiar?)

She demanded the Swedish government lower carbon emissions in accordance with the Paris Climate Agreement and kept her protest going until the Swedish general election Sept. 9 and then protested every Friday thereafter.

By this time, she had become an international sensation as a climate activist with thousands of students in numerous countries rallying to her cause. By December 2018, 20,000 students in 270 cities held climate strikes with Thunberg crediting the anti-gun teen activists of Parkland School in Florida for inspiring her to act.

Thunberg’s fame is such that she has since spoken at a Ted Talk in Stockholm, a UN Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen and on Jan. 23, she addressed the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland. She told the Davos delegates, which include the world’s leading CEOs, politicians and businessmen, “our house is on fire . . . I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. We owe it to the young people to give them hope.”

Since then, Time Magazine named Thunberg one of the world’s 25 most influential teenagers and on International Women’s Day March 8 she was proclaimed the most important woman of the year in Sweden and three Norwegian lawmakers recently nominated her for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.

Phew! That’s an inspiring list of accomplishments for anyone little alone for a 16-year-old girl barely into high school. And what does it all mean?

As a somewhat jaded septuagenarian, who has fought climate battles of his own (mostly unsuccessful) against unnecessary dams, pollution of our pristine streams, clear cut logging and other destructive forest practices, I have to stand in awe.

This young woman accomplished more in six months than I did in almost 60 years and I salute her. I also salute the thousands of young millennials like her who are fighting to save this planet from the desecration left behind by my generation in its greedy pursuit of wealth and materialism.

Scientists say we’ve so poisoned our air and water that we’re now living in the Anthropocene Epoch where the ceaseless and destructive works of mankind is the single greatest source destroying life on Mother Earth.

One of the main characteristics of epochs like the Anthropocene is mass extinctions. History has known five such mass extinctions. Could we be next?

Gerry Warner is a retired journalist, who hopes to survive the Anthropocene Epoch.

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