With the future of the climate and the lives of billions on the line, rising global temperatures and sea levels, extreme weather and other climate events are threatening life as we know it. While these catastrophic symptoms of climate change become more noticeable, world leaders have remained still and the Trump administration has only taken steps in the wrong direction, such as withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement and cutting funding for the Environmental Protection Agency.
Although the Trump administration has only worsened the state of the climate, its climate-based injustices have consequently elevated the voices of activists worldwide. A premier leader of the movement is 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg — one of several high-profile, young activists who has been in the national spotlight in recent years. And like those who came before her, politicians and those in positions of power have attempted to silence the voices of the youth who advocate for climate change and gun reform.
In response to a claim Thunberg made in a recent speech that Earth is enduring the start of a mass extinction, Trump sarcastically tweeted that “She [Thunberg] seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future.”
Even though Twitter rants and cyberbullying are common practices for Trump, this sort of immature behavior from a world leader shows the lack of interest Trump has in listening to his critics. By attacking those seeking to resolve significant global issues, Trump shows that he takes these matters far too lightly.
Trump’s minimal involvement in global climate crisis conversations illustrates the lack of urgency from the United States in easing one of the greatest threats ever seen by mankind. Perhaps more concerning than a 73-year-old man mocking a teenager on social media is the fact that Trump only attended the United Nation Climate Summit for around 10 minutes.
While some of Thunberg’s claims could be perceived as harsh by those being criticized, her statements are based on the scary, scientific facts of climate change. Because younger generations have inherited a deteriorating climate from their parents — the same parents who are now politicians — Thunberg believes that older generations must be held accountable for what they have left their children.
Adults in positions of power have taken a liking to bashing kids on social media and talk shows. Fox News guest and Daily Wire journalist Michael Knowles called Thunberg “mentally ill,” and conspiracy theories have been created about Thunberg, many of which she has listed as false on her Twitter account.
The current treatment of Thunberg from politicians and media members is eerily similar to their treatment of the Parkland High School mass shooting survivors. In the case of the Parkland students, the kids had just survived one of the most traumatizing experiences imaginable, a tragedy that has occurred far too many times in the United States. Their calls for an end to gun violence were mocked, twisted and slammed by politicians and media members alike.
Using an image of March for Our Lives leader Emma Gonzalez, Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King created an offensive meme of the then-18-year-old that was based on Gonzalez’s Cuban heritage. The post also sent the message that Gonzalez was advocating for all guns to be taken from owners, while this was not at all the case. Politicians are aware of the influence their voices possess, and intentionally altering someone’s message is a true abuse of power.
Gonzalez’s classmate David Hogg was also inappropriately attacked by Minnesota Republican Rep. Mary Franson, who likened Hogg to the Hitler Youth. This disturbing claim shows the absurd need for those in power to disregard the opinions of the youth and the voices of those who experienced a completely preventable trauma that the same adults allowed to take place.
Free from the biases created by being raised in different generations and financial contributions from organizations like the NRA, young activists are motivated to improve the world that they and their future kids will inherit. Both climate change and gun violence are ever-growing issues in our society, and a severe lack of change has inspired the youth to rise up. Until those in power stop discrediting the youth, stagnation on major issues such as climate change will only persist.