The speech young climate activist Greta Thunberg made to the UN Climate Action Summit in September 2019 is a great example of a speech for students. It can be added to work on several Shine Bright 1e themes. Greta Thunberg would also be interesting to study in connection with the LLCER literature curriculum The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
If you are working on Shine Bright 1e File 12 Peoples of Oceania or Advanced File 1, Brave new women, it would be a good model for the speech in the final task.
It would also make a great addition to File 13 Digital democracy, coupled with study of Thunberg’s Twitter page. https://twitter.com/GretaThunberg Which could give inspiration for the final task.
The speech is short, and made by a non-native speaker with an excellent level of English. It can be studied from B1 (extracts from A2+). Pupils should be able to pick out and analyse the way Thunberg addresses her audience (apostrophe): “Yet you all come to us young people for hope!”
They can also pick out the exclamatory anaphora “How dare you!” that Thunberg uses to punctuate her speech and give it rhythm, as does Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie with “A man is… A woman is…” in the speech featured in Advanced File 1, Brave new women.
My message is that we'll be watching you. This is all wrong. I shouldn't be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope! How dare you! You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. Yet I'm one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!
For more than 30 years the science has been crystal-clear. How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you're doing enough when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight. You say you hear us, and that you understand the urgency, but no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that. Because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil, and that I refuse to believe.
The popular idea of cutting our emissions in half in 10 years only gives us a 50% chance of staying below 1.5 degrees and the risk of setting of irreversible chain reactions beyond human control. 50% may be acceptable to you but those numbers do not include tipping points, most feedback loops, additional warming hidden by toxic air pollution, or the aspects of equity and climate justice. They also rely on my generation sucking hundreds of billions of tons of your CO2 out of the air with technologies that barely exist. So a 50% risk is simply not acceptable to us, we who have to live with the consequences. To have a 6 to 7 percent chance of staying below a 1.5 degrees of global temperature rise, the best odds given by the IPCC, the world had 420 gigatonnes of CO2 left to emit back on January 1st 2018. Today that figure is already down to less than 350 gigatonnes. How dare you pretend that this can be solved with just business as usual and some technical solutions? With today's emissions levels that remaining CO2 budgets will be entirely gone within less than eight and a half years. There will not be any solutions or plans presented in line with these figures here today, because these numbers are too uncomfortable and you are still not mature enough to tell it like it is. You are failing us, but the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say we will never forgive you.
A Curious Incident
Pupils studying The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time in LLCER might want to add a document about Thunberg to their Portfolio, as Thunberg is on the autistic spectrum like Christopher Boone, the protagonist of Curious Incident. She defines herself on her Twitter bio as, “16 year old climate and environmental activist with Asperger’s”. This article written by a journalist with autism would be a good starting point.
UN Photo/Cia Pak