Aspen Princess: It’s the kids’ world, we’re just destroying it |

Aspen Princess: It’s the kids’ world, we’re just destroying it

Alison Berkley Margo
The Aspen Princess

Chances are you’ve probably seen Greta Thunberg’s impassioned speech at the U.N. or heard about the youth-led climate strikes going on around the country. Or perhaps your own child was one of the 4 million worldwide who participated in the climate change rally locally last Friday in Aspen. Maybe your kid was one of many who wore white and posed in formation to create a giant human snowflake for a photo that was captured by a drone camera — a nice touch that somehow captures that Aspen “mind, body, spirit” ethos in a really beautiful and hopeful way.

I saw a post on social media that said it best: “You know there is something wrong with this world when the children are acting like adults and the adults are acting like children.”

What is it about this young girl that has struck a chord with people all over the world? She’s become iconic with her long braids, little yellow rain slicker, and stern expression. She’s captured our attention with her intensity, her intelligence and her commitment to action. She’s warmed our hearts with her Asperger’s diagnosis that somehow makes her every smile — that slight, crooked lift of one corner of her lips and an occasional sparkle in her eye like a small gift to us all.

On top of her mission to save the planet and to call out world leaders in their negligence and inability to act, she’s also setting an example for anyone who is different to own it and make it their strength. She says Asperger’s is her “superpower,” because of her ability to have and maintain acute focus. She has read the extensive reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and she has what has been described as an unflinching manner, and though she has displayed intense emotion with her emphatic plea, she has also shown a lack of emotion in some of the interviews I’ve watched that are consistent with the symptoms of her “diagnosis,” as she refers to it. It’s common for people with Asperger’s to have all-absorbing interests, which is clearly the case here. What’s striking is her ability to speak with an unbridled honesty and frankness that has been so powerful and clearly very effective. It’s fearless, raw and frank. Maybe that’s why people are not only listening to her, but also hearing her.

It’s not surprising, (though it is extremely encouraging) to witness the younger generation speaking out against a crisis that is simple enough for a child to understand: nothing is being done in the face of a global crisis where the damage and consequences are irreversible and potentially fatal. They’re the ones who are going to be left with the mess that we created for them.

In a recent interview on “The Daily Show,” Trevor Noah asked Greta about her about her impressions of America and New York City and she said, “Here, people take science as a matter of opinion, but in my country it is regarded as fact.”

I guess what stuns me is that it’s come to this. For a child to speak with such honesty and simplicity that millions of people, especially other young people, can hear her message. It’s a movement that, with the help of social media, has gained swift and startling momentum. I hope it continues to grow.

I can’t help but wonder why it’s Greta’s voice, this singular and unlikely child who said she felt invisible for the first 16 years of her life, that rings so true and loud. I’m not sure that it matters. I only hope the response can generate some action. The question is, how?

For years I’ve been saying that we no longer live in a democracy but a capitalist economy where corporate interests control legislation. They do it through powerful lobbies, they do it through outrageous campaign donations, and they do it through incumbent members of Congress who, without any kind of term limitations, have their lifelong seat bought and paid for by special interests. Until there is some kind of campaign reform, until there are term limitations, until we get big business out of politics, we’ll never have a functioning government that represents the people, never mind the planet.

I hear you, Greta. I’m going to try harder. I’m going to care more. I’m going to start by trying to eliminate as much plastic and one-use products from my house as I can, because now that I think about it, things like Ziplock bags and paper towels are straight up crazy. I’m going to start composting. I’m going to continue to eat a mostly plant-based diet, and even though I do still eat meat I’m going to think twice about it, especially since we have a freezer full of elk and venison from Ryan’s annual fall hunt.

I’m going to work with the Community Office for Resource Efficiency and Green Line Architects who are on the cutting edge of green building during our remodel to do everything we can to make our old house more energy efficient. I’m going to buy green products like the house cleaning system I just ordered that uses glass bottles and concentrated tablets so all you have to do is add water.

I’m going to support companies that are committed to environmental conservation because ultimately, I think our only hope is if capitalism catches up enough to make saving the planet profitable and lucrative business. Can renewable energy eventually trump all this waste, no pun intended? Then just maybe, our system can work.

Here in Basalt, fifth-grader Oliver Fox-Rubin is organizing a Climate Change Rally for Friday. Thanks, Oliver. I’m so glad Levi will have kids like you in our community to look up to. Thank you, Greta for being so smart and so brave.

The planet is in trouble — but hopefully, thankfully, the kids are all right.

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