Every year, some of the richest, most powerful, and perhaps most recklessly optimistic people in the world descend on Davos, Switzerland. They like to style themselves as benevolent change-bringers, but they're largely the beneficiaries of the same systems and policies that are driving millions of people around the world (the U.S. included) into deeper poverty and accelerating the worst possible outcomes of climate change. Those connections rarely get highlighted at the World Economic Forum though.
This year, a 16-year-old climate change activist is changing that. Video of Greta Thunberg addressing panels and audiences at Davos are quickly going viral, showing the Swedish teen telling the world's billionaires that she believes it's their responsibility to fight off the coming disaster that they've helped create.
Thunberg has also started "Fridays for Future," student-led school strikes demanding action that are spreading in Switzerland and Germany. She's even protested at businesses poised to profit handsomely off of climate change.
We are at a time in history where everyone with any insight of the climate crisis that threatens our civilisation – and the entire biosphere – must speak out in clear language, no matter how uncomfortable and unprofitable that may be.
We must change almost everything in our current societies. The bigger your carbon footprint, the bigger your moral duty. The bigger your platform, the bigger your responsibility.
Adults keep saying: “We owe it to the young people to give them hope.” But I don’t want your hope. 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 our house is on fire. Because it is.
Young people are especially poised to bear the brunt of climate disaster, as we're less than two decades out from the worst effects. And as well-meaning as the rich and powerful may be, if they're left to solve the crisis on their own, they'll only come up with ways that leave them as comfortable as they are now.