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October 9, 2019

It’s not just Greta

Opinion

October 9, 2019

Ridhima Pandey was just nine years old in 2017 when she filed a lawsuit against the Indian government for failing to take action against climate change.

Pandey’s fierce, astounding passion for the environment is not accidental. Her mother is a forestry guard and her father an environmental activist; and the whole family was displaced by the Uttarakhand floods of 2013, which claimed hundreds of lives.

In Kenya Kaluki Paul Mutuku has been actively involved in conservation since college, where he was a member of an environmental awareness club, and has been a member of the African Youth Initiative on Climate Change since 2015.

For years, young people across the world have been campaigning to draw attention to the crisis our planet faces, and to tackle it. Yet it seems the media is only interested in one young climate activist.

Without doubt, the remarkable Greta Thunberg is a superstar. In just one year, she has gone from being an unknown teenager, living in the comfort of a middle-class home in Sweden, to being one of the most recognised faces on the planet. She is fearless, earnest, passionate about the planet and determined.

But so are her peers. Born in a wealthy country, to parents who can afford to accommodate their daughter’s convictions, and in a culture where children are encouraged to speak up, Thunberg has intersecting privileges. She is aware of this and regularly mentions her fellow youth activists in her speeches, to remind journalists that there are others working alongside her.

People such as the teenager Aditya Mukarji, who in March 2018 began a war against plastic straws. Within just five months, he had already helped replace more than 500,000 plastic straws at restaurants and hotels in New Delhi. Last year Nina Gualinga, an indigenous activist from the Ecuadorian Amazon since the age of eight, won the WWF’s top youth conservation award. At 15, Autumn Peltier from the Anishinaabe people of Canada, is a veteran clean water and climate advocate. And Leah Namugerwa is a 15-year-old Ugandan activist.

There are many more whose names we rarely, if ever, hear. Yet, frustratingly, these other activists are often referred to in the media as the “Greta Thunberg” of their country, or are said to be following in her footsteps, even in cases where they began their public activism long before she started hers – their own identities and work almost completely erased by a western media that rarely recognises progress outside its own part of the world.

Excerpted from: ‘It’s Not Just Greta: Why are the Developing World’s Inspiring Activists Being Ignored?’

Counterpunch.org

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