Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. – Margaret Mead
In 2011, an eight-year-old girl discovered the issue surrounding climate change and was confused: why wasn’t more being done to tackle what she felt to be the world’s most pressing crisis?
Seven years later, the determined teenager decided that she would help to raise awareness by becoming an environmental activist. In August 2018, she became known for spending her school days outside the Swedish Parliament, calling for more action on global warming. During these demonstrations, she carried a large hand-painted sign that read, ‘Skolstrejk for Klimatet’ – School Strike for Climate.
The world now knows the passion of the Swedish teenager, Greta Thunberg, who inspired students in her homeland to follow her lead. In 2018, she spoke at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, and since then there have been weekly student-led climate protests throughout the world. Since 2019, multi-city demonstrations have seen millions of young people voicing their concerns over climate change.
Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek. – Barack Obama
In just a little over a year, a young girl from Sweden went from being an unknown activist to someone who has argued her case directly to world leaders and inspired millions to act on climate change. Her dedication to a cause she cares deeply about now leads the conversation on global warming, which has intensified so much so that people around the world – whatever their views – are discussing climate change and the consequences of inaction.
What impresses me most about Greta’s inspiring story isn’t the obstacles she continually overcomes along the way (Greta has been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and selective mutism). It’s the fact that one young, committed person has been able to create such profound change that has rippled across the globe.
Must Read: Developing Your Child's Character
In recognition of her efforts, Greta Thunberg has been made a fellow of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and was named among the 100 Most Influential People in 2019 by Time Magazine. A few months ago, when I spoke to a number of business leaders, they expressed how they too had experienced how their children were teaching them important lessons.
Children Are Teaching Us Daily
At Leaderonomics, our work with young people has long convinced us that not only do they have the potential to become great leaders, but that they are more aware of social issues, more creative and innovative than adults give them credit for. It’s truly awesome to see young Malaysians grow from being reserved and uncertain to realising their inner strength and abilities, and what they can achieve when they decide to use them.
Pictured: Attendees at our recent M.A.D. Youth Summit
Too often, we undermine the intelligence and misjudge the capability of young people to make real and important contributions to society. Greta Thunberg is one of many extraordinary examples of what children can do and the kind of change they can effect when they become passionate about a cause.
Greta Thurnberg, Malala Yousafzai, Sophie Cruz, Easton LaChappelle, Boyan Slat…these are just a few of the many who chose not to wait for somebody else to create change. Instead, they took charge and became that somebody. Each of them realised that age has no bearing on a person’s willingness and desire to step forward and take action. They simply went ahead and did it.
You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life. – Winston Churchill
Of course, Greta Thurnberg – like Malala and other young activists – has come under fire from critics who disagree with what she’s trying to do. Her commitment to carry on regardless, and to address those critics, is what makes young people so inspiring. Their fearlessness as they act shows that they’re not phased by the naysayers and those who ridicule them.
On the contrary, they understand and accept that it’s part of the deal the moment they decide to stick their head above the parapet. Critics will always be on hand to jeer those with passionate beliefs. It’s a lesson that many adults could do well to learn.
Read More: Let Children Be Children
Each of us will have our views on climate change and Greta Thurnberg, but this article is a celebration of young people, their commitment and their passion to contribute to the world. It’s also a call to leaders – here in Malaysia and farther afield – to not only listen to what young people have to say, but to actively engage them and what they have to offer, whether it be in schools or communities, or within organisations when they come to join the team.
It’s been my view for a long time that young people are often underrated and their skills, knowledge and insights underused. We say that children are our future, and yet many of us seem comfortable to leave that future sitting on the shelf to gather dust. Ultimately, our future is created in this moment. The tomorrow we’ll come to know depends on the choices we make today. It will be sorely to our disadvantage if we don’t engage young people more in helping to shape the legacy we hope to build.
In some cases, it might even be prudent to let them take the reins. They seem to be as capable – if not more so – of creating the positive change we need in the world than some adult leaders. In fact, children are teaching us daily through their words, actions and deeds. It is time we too learn from them as they learn from us.
This article was written by Roshan Thiran, a few days before the MAD Summit 2020. At the Summit, more than 3000 youths came together to go MAD (Make A Difference). And at the Summit more than USD25,000 were given to youths to do projects to better humanity and make a difference. If you want to join the MAD movement and take up the 21 MAD Days Challenge (Go MAD for 21 days together!), click HERE
Watch this amazing video on how you too can learn like children and grow daily: