The Greta Effect: ‘It’s Our Future We’re Fighting For’

Lois Mackenzie

In 2015 our screens were flock with images of a young Swedish activist standing outside her school urging us to take note of the ongoing climate emergency. At just 15 years old, Greta Thunberg spent her days protesting outside of parliament and organising school strikes to protest the damage being done to the climate. Since then she has gone on to address the United Nations, challenge politicians and encourage her generation world-wide to step up and make a change. 

Many hoped to forget about this teenager and simply ignored her pleas as she’d eventually find a new hobby and move on. Unfortunately for them the ‘Greta effect’ is now being heard and felt worldwide; encouraging teenagers, adults even the elderly to make a difference and protect our planet. 

But especially encouraging teenagers. If one teenager can make such a difference to global thinking, imagine what an uprising of teenagers could do. And it’s happening. More and more teenagers are refusing to sit back and leave the work to the politicians, the grown-ups and the ones who got the world into this mess. 

With COP26 fast approaching, young activists all over Scotland are speaking up to make sure their voices will be heard and that climate change will no longer be ignored.

Young climate activist Finlay, one of Scotland's Greta Thunberg

Finlay Pringle is one such activist. Just 13 years old, Finlay hails his inspiration from the surroundings he has grown up with in Ullapool: 

“Living next to the sea it is fascinating being on the beach and in the water watching the fish and the amazing marine life we have here. Spending time underwater snorkelling and seeing all this life first hand made me realise that I had to do something to protect the place that I love.”

At just 13 years old Finlay has already reached his two year anniversary of striking for climate change, and is the first person in the UK to do a climate strike, with 105 strikes now under his belt. 

“At the end of the day it’s our future we’re fighting for. Previous generations have allowed these problems to develop by failing to take action and refusing to clean up the mess. So, it’s up to us young people to make the difference because if we don’t act by 2030 it will be too late.”

Finlay hasn’t just stopped at striking. Alongside his primary school he made Ullapool the first plastic straw free village in the UK. Finlay is also an active member of Ocean Heroes and has participated in the Young Activists Summit 2020 from UN Geneva.

Young climate activist Eric, one of Scotland's Greta Thunberg, speaking to a crowd with a microphone

Another young activist is Eric Ness. A member of Nairn Extinction Rebellion, 15 year old Eric first began taking part in climate strikes in in March 2019, saying his inspiration came from watching Greta Thunberg.

“ I feel that it is important for young people to stand up and make a difference because it is our future and we will be the ones that have to live with the effects of climate change.”

Eric has since arranged school strikes every Friday, as well as protests against fast fashion at Eastgate Shopping Centre in Inverness.

Young climate activist Florence, one of Scotland's Greta Thunberg

16 year old Florence Spreadborough from Moray too credits her activism to the Greta-effect. While teenagers worldwide had previously felt insignificant and unimportant in such political matters, they have been inspired to stand up and assured that their voice matters.

“I was extremely inspired by Greta Thunberg, before I knew about her I felt like no one would listen to me because of my age or take me seriously but thanks to Greta I felt a sense of urgency and purpose which was missing from my life previously”.

Florence is an active member of Forres Extinction rebellion and the youngest member of the red rebel brigade in Scotland, a performance artivist troupe dedicated to illuminating the global environmental crisis.

When talking about why young people have decided to step up and take action, Florence spoke of the effect of climate change on younger generations.

“When you grow up you are always taught that adults know best but how can they know best if this is the world they leave behind. In fifty years’ time many of the adults in power now won’t be around to witness the devastation that their inaction has caused. Young people must speak out as the decisions made today will affect our whole lives.”

To change people’s mind on climate change Florence doesn’t believe in blame or criticism, but simply asking, “what kind of future do you want?”.

What kind of future do we want is the question teenagers worldwide hope will be asked at the upcoming COP26 conference, as world leaders come together in Glasgow to stop the irreversible effects of climate change. 

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