A Climate Champion is Named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year

This blog was written by Jennifer Rennicks, former Senior Director of Policy & Communications at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Guest Blog | December 12, 2019 | Climate Change, Sea Level Rise

Yesterday we learned that Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish student who rose to prominence when she began leading student climate strikes more than a year ago, was named Time Magazine’s person of the year for 2019. In bestowing the honor, Time notes this amazing truth:

Thunberg is not a leader of any political party or advocacy group. She is neither the first to sound the alarm about the climate crisis nor the most qualified to fix it. She is not a scientist or a politician. She has no access to traditional levers of influence: she’s not a billionaire or a princess, a pop star or even an adult. She is an ordinary teenage girl who, in summoning the courage to speak truth to power, became the icon of a generation. By clarifying an abstract danger with piercing outrage, Thunberg became the most compelling voice on the most important issue facing the planet.

Climate activist Greta Thunberg photographed on the shore in Lisbon, Portugal December 4, 2019. Photograph by Evgenia Arbugaeva for TIME

For decades scientists and advocates have been warning about rising temperatures and climate pollution levels, and for decades leaders and businesses have avoided the inconvenient truth that we must change the way we produce and consume energy, travel, and live in order to avoid the worst impacts of a climate crisis. Just last month another report – the Emissions Gap – showed how urgent action is needed to reduce climate pollution and prevent the worst impacts of global warming.

Perhaps our warnings have been too polite, too quiet, or too conciliatory? We must join and continue to lift up the youth who will live with the consequences of present and past actions and are emboldened to speak up and demand action. In fact,  young people are starting to make so much noise that “climate emergency” is Oxford Dictionaries’ 2019 Word of the Year and “climate strike” was given the same honor by Collins Dictionary.

There is still time to make needed course corrections, although that window is shrinking with each day. There are viable clean energy solutions already at hand to reduce carbon pollution and hopefully avert the worst impacts of the climate crisis. Please consider joining us and supporting the work we do to change the way we produce and consume energy here in the Southeast in order to ensure clean, safe and healthy communities throughout the Southeast for today’s generations and future.

On a personal note: I love the cover honoring Greta Thunberg and the youth voices demanding action because it is an inspirational photo that also conveys the urgency of our situation: climate change means rising seas, and her feet are already wet. 

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