Verve|April - May 2020

Children are holding adults accountable for both the grim future they are facing and the toll this is taking on their mental health. Madhumita Bhattacharyya initiates conversations with families of young climate activists and observes the extent to which parenting has changed in the face of catastrophe
Madhumita Bhattacharyya
There is nothing quite like a global pandemic to remind us just how interconnected we are. Not to mention, vulnerable. The world has come together to stem the spread of the coronavirus, and this is just the kind of coordinated effort that is needed to address another calamity looming over us — climate change. But for some reason, when it comes to the environment, the urgency is absent. And it is not our politicians but our children who have emerged as the loudest voices.

“How dare you?” thundered Greta Thunberg at the United Nations General Assembly during the Climate Action Summit in 2019, then all of 16 years old. Arguably the most famous teen today, Thunberg founded the Fridays For Future movement, in which children skip school to drive home the point that world leaders are only paying lip service to what is a full-blown existential crisis. She has inspired hundreds of young people in India, who have been striking every week since last September.

But why has this job been left to kids like Thunberg in the first place — why have they been saddled with a disproportionate burden of care, and what is the effect it is having on them?

“I became depressed. I saw that everything was just so wrong, and nothing mattered,” says Thunberg in the I Know This To Be True book that profiles her and was published by the Nelson Mandela Foundation in collaboration with Blackwell & Ruth. “How I got out of that depression was by thinking to myself, ‘I can do so much, one person can do so much. And so I should try to do everything I can to change things, instead of just doing nothing’,” she adds.


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April - May 2020