No One is Too Small to Make a Difference

I normally review books that make me sit up and take notice intellectually. I chose to read—and review—Greta Thunberg’s No One is Too Small to Make a Difference for another reason. Thunberg herself.

Anyone who pays even the slightest attention to climate change knows about this remarkable sixteen year old Swede who has focused so much of the world’s attention on the dangers of climate change. Her quiet leadership of global strikes and demonstrations by high school students and others have turned her into a media star.

Her point is simple. We all have to pay attention and act on what the world’s scientists are telling us about climate change. Before it is too late. If not for us, but for her generation and for generations to come to whom my generation is bequeathing a  planet in peril.

If you have been paying even the slightest attention to climate change, you won’t learn much about the issue from this short book of her talks and short articles. That’s not her goal. She wants you to act on what she (and the world’s scientists) are saying.

From her perspective, we’ve run out of excuses because we’re running out of time. She wants us to panic about a future in which a chain of unpredictable and, in twenty years or so, irreversible changes to the planet’s ecosystem will unfold.

She wants us to panic. And then to act. She focuses on us, because by the time we reach that point in 2030 or so, she’ll still be in her twenties and won’t yet be in a position to change the trajectory we are on. That burden falls on those of us who can make a change in global public policy today.

As someone who is on the Asperger’s spectrum, Thunberg does tend to see things in black and white terms. Or, as she put it on p. 39

We live in a strange world, where children must sacrifice their own education to protest against the destruction of their planet. But it’s the world that my generation has been handed. It’s the only world we’ve got. And I want you to panic. I want you to act as if your house is on fire.

At first glance, I could not agree with her more.

Actually, I can agree with her more.

It’s not just climate change. Admittedly, it’s the defining issue of our generation. If we don’t tackle it, we will face the catastrophes she warns about.

But, it’s not only climate change. There are other issues that she is aware of—racism, violence, inequality, and more.

My hope is that each of them will spawn their own Greta Thunbergs, because we certainly need them.