The gifts of Greta

How do we link personal change to action on climate change?

Recently I watched an interview with the father of Greta Thunberg, the young climate activist. He was speaking about the journey they have been on as a family as her stance against political inertia has transformed her from a lone protester into a figurehead for young people and their calls for action against climate catastrophe.

In the interview Mr Thunberg spoke about how Greta had been struggling to connect with her peers in recent years and her daily struggle to get beyond her own thoughts and feelings. She had become mired in her own internal battles and seemed anxious and depressed. Her father was worried.

Then she replaced anxiety with rage as she awakened to climate change. She began her lone protest, skipping school to do so. ‘With no future’, she argued, ‘what was the point of school?’

Whatever opinion one may have of her actions or beliefs, it is striking that she seems to have effected a huge personal transformation. The energy that her ego had been using for worrying and hesitating and staying away was now being used to power her into sustained action. 

She seems to have achieved this refocusing of energy by going beyond her own ego and its daily concerns to connect with something much bigger and more important-in this instance climate change. In doing this, she has discovered that ego energy is finite, but collective energy or the power of big purpose is infinite.

We may not feel as able to connect to the large as she has done, but there is good evidence to show that time spent on concerns that go beyond our daily struggles is good for our wellbeing. Humans are collective and social beings, so every time we smile at another person, hold a door open or take action on social issues, we are lifting our mood and gifting positive energy to the world.

Although Greta Thunberg has achieved iconic status and many people look to her for inspiration, it is important that, in this age of the ‘everyday guru’, we don’t simply look to inspirational people to act on our behalf but take action ourselves.

For more on how we can all do more, read my blog: Climate change, what can you do?

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