Another brick in the wall

Photo: Taelar Pollmann ⋅ The Sentry

Children are the future?
Photo: Taelar Pollmann ⋅ The Sentry

Like many Americans, I first learned of the work of Swedish activist Greta Thunberg within the last few weeks. I mostly glazed over headlines until something caught my eye: Greta Thunberg is 16 years old.

Though many are probably aware of the high-profile climate strikes that took place in cities around the world, including Denver, on Sept. 25, Thunberg has been protesting outside Swedish parliament nearly every Friday since September 2018. At that point, she was a 15-year-old.

A couple thoughts ran through my head. The first was, “Why didn’t I, or any of my peers, think of that when we were in high school?” I suppose the obvious answer was our parents likely wouldn’t have let us, but that’s beside the point.

Then my second thought was, “Were we really so self-absorbed in high school?” Objectively, I would say, yes, of course we were (or at least I definitely was). We watched Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth in one of our classes, but we generally saw climate change as an abstract problem that isn’t yet effecting us directly. 

Personally, I was more concerned about which college I would get into, as well as stupider concerns like if anyone wanted to go to prom with me, than any societal ills, let alone the destruction of the planet.

Why were we so ignorant? Maybe we can blame it on being children of the 90s, when the economy was better, before 9/11 and the War on Terror. We were raised thinking everything in the world was fine.

Maybe there’s also the fact that adults expected us not to care about world issues and didn’t encourage us. The biggest teen classic when I was in high school was Mean Girls, a film that depicts all teenagers, especially teenage girls, as petty and obsessed with their social status. Maybe, because all adults expected us to be self-absorbed and told us our most important concern was where we went to college, that’s how we acted.

Seeing, Thunberg and the young Parkland High School survivors protest government inaction made me feel somewhat ashamed. I’m older than them. They shouldn’t be taking on more of a burden than I am.

Maybe for people my age, adults failed us. But we also have been failing ourselves.

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