First the numbers. Then the rallying cry.
All-time temperature records tumbled — again — this past week as the second heatwave in as many months seared Europe. Germany, Holland and Belgium recorded national temperature highs for two days running, and Paris recorded its hottest temperature since records have been kept. A similar heatwave last month made that the hottest June on record. Wednesday’s Dutch record of 39.3°C (102.7°F) was set in Eindhoven; Belgium’s record of 40.6°C was set at Kleine Brogel, near the Dutch border, the following day.
Scientists say the climate crisis is making summer heatwaves five times more likely and significantly more intense. So much for the old, increasingly tired argument that there’s no correlation between weather and climate.
Now the rallying cry. Yes, that was voice of climate activist Greta Thunberg on the title track of the Manchester rock group The 1975’s forthcoming album, which previewed last week — the same day Thunberg addressed legislators at France’s National Assembly, at which she urged them to “unite behind the science.”
French right-wingers, including but not limited to ideological followers of France’s neo-Nazi wing, refused to attend her appearance, proving yet again that nothing terrifies the monied interests of Big Oil and skinheads with bike chains than a slight, soft-spoken, 16-year-old climate activist.
Thunberg said young climate activists have become the bad guys — her words — for stating uncomfortable truths.
“Just for quoting or acting on these numbers, these scientific facts, we receive unimaginable amounts of hate and threats,” she said. “We are being mocked and lied about by members of parliament and journalists.”
Well, not proper journalists, one would like to think — at least, those journalists who haven’t forgotten the meaning of the word.
Thunberg’s speeches — which she writes herself, not having the financial backing or wherewithal of Big Oil’s cadre of climate deniers — tend to be terse and to-the-point, marked by short sentences and staccato salvos, not unlike burst poetry.
Here then, without further ado, is what she told French legislators, verbatim.
We are right now in the beginning of a climate and ecological crisis.
And we need to call it what it is. An emergency.
We must acknowledge that we do not have the situation under control and that we donʼt have all the solutions yet. Unless those solutions mean that we simply stop doing certain things.
We admit that we are losing this battle.
We have to acknowledge that the older generations have failed. All political movements in their present form have failed.
But homo sapiens have not yet failed.
Yes, we are failing, but there is still time to turn everything around. We can still fix this. We still have everything in our own hands.
But unless we recognize the overall failures of our current systems, we most probably donʼt stand a chance.
We are facing a disaster of unspoken sufferings for enormous amounts of people. And now is not the time for speaking politely or focusing on what we can or cannot say. Now is the time to speak clearly.
Solving the climate crisis is the greatest and most complex challenge that homo sapiens have ever faced. The main solution, however, is so simple that even a small child can understand it. We have to stop our emissions of greenhouse gases.
And either we do that, or we donʼt.
You say that nothing in life is black or white.
But that is a lie. A very dangerous lie.
Either we prevent a 1.5 degree of warming, or we donʼt.
Either we avoid setting off that irreversible chain reaction beyond human control, or we donʼt.
Either we choose to go on as a civilization or we donʼt. That is as black or white as it gets.
Because there are no grey areas when it comes to survival. Now we all have a choice.
We can create transformational action that will safeguard the living conditions for future generations.
Or we can continue with our business as usual and fail.
That is up to you and me.
And yes, we need a system change rather than individual change. But you cannot have one without the other.
If you look through history, all the big changes in society have been started by people at the grassroots level. People like you and me.
So, I ask you to please wake up and make the changes required possible. To do your best is no longer good enough. We must all do the seemingly impossible.
Today, we use about 100 million barrels of oil every single day. There are no politics to change that. There are no rules to keep that oil in the ground.
So, we can no longer save the world by playing by the rules. Because the rules have to be changed.
Everything needs to change. And it has to start today.
So, everyone out there, it is now time for civil disobedience. It is time to rebel.
Paris did eventually break its heat record, by the way. The City of Light registered a high of 42.6° C (108.7°), on Thursday. Numbers don’t lie.