Hopefully, just about every Kiwi knows who Greta Thunberg is. In case you’ve been hiding under a rock, she’s the schoolgirl in Sweden who took time off class to draw attention to the climate crisis. She protested outside the Swedish parliament with a sign reading ‘School strike for the climate’ kicking off a strike by school kids around the world. What’s remarkable about Greta is she realised “our house is on fire” at the age of 15, and is trying to put it out all on her own. The response to her courage and conviction has been extraordinary, from around the world.
New Zealand now has a lone parliamentary protester as well. His name is Ollie Langridge. At 55, he’s a few years older than Greta and has a wife and six children. Langridge began his protest two weeks ago after the UN Biodiversity Report was released, which warned Earth was in the middle of a mass extinction. He said he was motivated by the fear he felt for his children’s future and was going to stand outside parliament, seven days a week until the Government declares a climate change emergency.
Is there really an emergency? The World Meteorological Organisation advises that levels of greenhouse gases are now higher than they have been in the past 800,000 years. The result is global warming. Petteri Taalas, secretary general of the World Meteorological Organisation says:
“The last time the Earth experienced a comparable concentration of CO2 was three to five million years ago, when the temperature was 2-3C warmer and sea level was 10-20 metres higher than now.”
If that happens, quite a few cities around the world will be under water. That should put out a few fires – but a lot of people are going to drown first.
Let’s check out a few other comments that Greta has made about this. At a TEDx talk in Stockholm, she said
“For those of us, who are on the (autism) spectrum, almost everything is black or white. We aren’t very good at lying and we usually don’t enjoy participating in the social games that the rest of you seem so fond of… There are no grey areas when it comes to survival. Either we go on as a civilization or we don’t.”
In October 2018, she addressed the ‘Declaration of Rebellion’ organized by Extinction Rebellion opposite the Houses of Parliament in London. She said:
“We’re facing an immediate unprecedented crisis that has never been treated as a crisis and our leaders are all acting like children. We need to wake up and change everything.”
At the COP24 United Nations climate change summit on 4 December 2018:
“Our civilization is being sacrificed so that a very small number of people can continue making enormous amounts of money. Our biosphere is being sacrificed so that rich people in countries like mine can live in luxury.”
Speaking to the financial elite at Davos on 23 January, 2019:
“I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if the house was on fire – because it is”.
On 21 February 2019, Greta spoke at a conference of the European Economic and Social Committee about the need to keep global warming below two degrees centigrade. She said:
“If we fail to do so all that will remain of our political leaders’ legacy will be the greatest failure of human history.”
In Berlin in March 2019, she talked about the school strike:
“We live in a strange world where children must sacrifice their own education in order to protest against the destruction of their future – where the people who have contributed the least to this crisis are the ones who are going to be affected the most.”
At an April 2019 meeting at the European Parliament in Strasbourg with MEP’s and EU officials, she said if politicians were serious about tackling climate change, they would not spend all their time…
“talking about taxes or Brexit… If our house was falling apart, you wouldn’t hold three emergency Brexit summits and no emergency summit regarding the breakdown of the climate and the environment.”
That’s Greta for you – blunt and to the point. She may have started her protest alone, but not anymore. She’s got millions of supporters around the world.
On the other hand, Ollie Langridge has hardly said a word. So far, his is a silent protest. But he’s posted a lot of photos on Instagram. And you know what they say: one picture is worth a thousand words. So if you agree with Greta and Ollie that ‘the world is on fire’, head on down to parliament and get your picture taken with him. Help Ollie persuade the Government to declare a climate emergency.
What will that achieve? Possibly very little. But it would demonstrate to the world that New Zealanders care about the survival of the entire planet, not just Kiwis murdered in a mosque. Jacinda Ardern earned enormous international kudos for her compassionate response to the Muslim community after those shootings. She has the world’s respect. If she now declared a climate emergency, people would listen to her as well as to Greta. And then she could take a picture with Ollie.