True to form President Donald Trump dismissed and insulted Greta Thunberg, the young Climate Change activist, after she was named Person of the Year in Time Magazine.
Also true to form, the media jumped on board — putting the spotlight on Trump and his antics. What media has failed to do is put their cameras squarely on the devastation that Climate Change has already created. Yes, inappropriate comments from this President should be reported because what he says does represent who he is, but it cannot become the focus.
The more media is diverted, the less our global emergency is reported.
The media repeats its same mistakes when it focuses on Greta as a “personality,” rather than the issues she attempts to bring to the forefront. Precious coverage is wasted when dissecting Greta and reporting whether she really rode in first class on a German train. Turning her into a talk show “star” and applauding her remarks isn't enough. Thunberg is certainly a charismatic and inspiring speaker, but she is far from being the only youth fighting against the looming threat of environmental destruction.
Activists like Autumn Peltier of the Wiikwemkoong First Nation, who fights for water rights, Helena Gualinga of Ecuador, a native of the ever-vulnerable rainforest, and Quannah Chasinghorse of Alaska, who helped pass The Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Protection Act, to name just a few, are all equally deserving of attention and amplification of their goals and missions. Climate Change and environmental activism is not a single-issue fight, and every player and their unique issues deserve the spotlight as well.
Media must do more than cover Greta and Trump’s sparring and expose what silently happens every day, when we lose more of the rain forest, when our planet’s temperature goes up, when our oceans warm and coral reefs bleach, put the cameras on the dying sea life washing up on shores... the cruel impact that we are witnessing first to wildlife and the scientific proof that our society will be next.
We are already seeing just how destructive Climate Change is. California now has “new normals” of annual fires fueled by higher temperatures, extended drought and powerful winds. California wildfires grow bigger each year. Just last year, the town of Paradise received only one-seventeenth of an inch of rain, rather than their typical five inches, and was all but wiped out by the catastrophic Camp Fire, which would become California's deadliest wildfire in history.
This year Kuwait and Pakistan reached temperatures of 129 degrees. None of this can be ignored. Media should cover Thunberg and her many peers but don't stop there, follow up with evidence to their words. Everyone must do more than “like” a social media post that criticizes Trump for his latest tweet. Armchair activists may feel they are contributing but an angry emoji won't stop the ruin of our planet. This is a movement that will be won with awareness and action, nothing less.
As Greta herself has said: “Until you start focusing on what needs to be done rather than what is politically possible, there is no hope. We can’t solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis....And if solutions within the system are so impossible to find, maybe we should change the system itself.”
Climate Change is often characterized as a problem for the next generation, and indeed the children of today will suffer the worst of its effects if nothing is done, but it cannot be their sole responsibility to fix. We must put all of our efforts into saving ourselves by saving one another.
The Climate Change crisis is a global threat, one that won’t afford any second chances. And unfortunately, it will strike at the vulnerable and underprivileged much harder and even faster than it will the people whose decisions can redirect our fate the most. This is no longer a fight for prevention, it's already happening, it’s a matter of mitigating what is going on. It’s a fight for survival.
Alejandro JSM Chavez is a contributing writer for the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol Newspapers.