Greta Thunberg seems to scare people. The Swedish teenager has almost single-handedly changed climate change discussions. Instead of talking about it with a sunny optimism, she talks about it like a cardiologist whose patient won’t stop eating bacon: If we don’t make a drastic change, it’s over. We’re all going to die. Doing this has made her a fair number of haters: conservative hack Dinesh D’Souza tried to equate her trademark braids with Nazi propaganda.
It wasn’t that long ago that David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez were also scaring people. After the Parkland shooting, the two students along with many others became vocal advocates for sensible gun laws. Both had witnessed the after effects of a horrific mass shooting, and wanted to make sure it did not happen to another community. They got a lot of hate thrown at them, with people wondering if they were paid actors or trying to politicize a tragedy. Despite this, they are both trying to turn out people to vote for big changes in our gun laws.
Why are some people so afraid of children? While climate change and gun laws in America are two large, complicated issues that I cannot get into in this space, I do believe they have one major commonality: we have allowed a status quo to continue that seems to be unsustainable, yet no one is willing to take a step towards change. Doing so would mean upsetting some very large institutions, so we keep kicking the can down the road. Enter the child activists: they’re the ones who will live with the consequences of our actions, and for a longer amount of time. They want to make changes now, so the world is not so worse for them when they are finally in control.
Sometimes living in the United States, it feels like all the responsible people have been pushed out or left. Our president behaves like a petulant child on Twitter, preferring to start flame wars with other celebrities who disagree with him than talking about real problems like gun control or natural disasters accelerated by climate change.
Meanwhile, Thunberg, Hogg, Gonzalez, and others like them have been able to make major progress with their actions. Recently, climate change demonstrations inspired by Thunberg happened worldwide, with people all over demanding something be done now. Hogg and Gonzalez poked some metaphorical holes in the NRA, causing donations to decrease and politicians to view the NRA’s endorsement as toxic. It may even cease to exist in a year or two. Currently, politics is corrupt and chaotic, and it feels like we cannot rely on the people in power. However, it is probably the best time to listen to the people with the least amount of power in our nation and let them lead us now. The fact that Gen Z has stepped up in this way makes me hopeful. They seem to be not only the future but also the present.