PEI

Greta Thunberg's UN speech 'mirrored how a lot of kids are feeling,' say P.E.I. teens

On P.E.I., students are watching as 16-year-old Greta Thunberg shares her message on a global stage — urging world leaders to take immediate action to fight climate change. 

Students say they're inspired by Thunberg, but hope her message resonates with world leaders

Students in the Grade 12 environmental science class at Colonel Gray High School. Front row from left: Destiny Fraser, Amy Mckenna, Vijeta Chatterjee. Middle row from left: Molly Madore, Emma McLure, Kaileigh Martell. Kiera Marshall, back row. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

As she spoke at the United Nations Climate Action Summit, eyes around the world were on 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who has been making headlines since starting the school climate strike movement in 2018. 

On P.E.I., students are watching as Thunberg shares her message on a global stage — urging world leaders to take immediate action to fight climate change. 

People are talking about her and people are noticing. And I think she really is making a difference.— Amy Mckenna

"She literally blows my mind. Every time I'm on Facebook she's there, and I cannot stop myself from clicking on her videos," said 17-year-old Kiera Marshall, a student in the Grade 12 environmental science class at Colonel Gray High School in Charlottetown.

She and her classmates said they're inspired by Thunberg — but also hope her popularity is more than just a viral moment and that it leads to real changes. 

All over social media

Discussions about environmental issues are nothing new for Marshall and her classmates, who signed up for the environmental science class in an effort to learn more. 

Teen activist Greta Thunberg assails world leaders for inaction on climate change 1:47

But they said since Thunberg started making headlines, they've noticed more conversations about climate change among their friends and family. 

"I had never heard of her before last week, and now there's three articles on Snapchat just all about who she is and what she has to say," said Amy Mckenna. 

"People are talking about her and people are noticing. And I think she really is making a difference."

Students in the class said they're inspired by Thunberg, but also wonder if world leaders will make real changes. 

"When something like this goes viral, someone says something, we just hear it, we don't take it in," said Emma McLure.

"All we do is just agree and say 'oh yeah, like we need to do something about this.' But then we never actually take that step to make any kind of changes."

A lot for children to take on

And when it comes to making those necessary changes, some students said it feels like there is a lot of pressure on children to be leaders. 

Nelly Dunne is a Grade 9 student at Birchwood Intermediate. 

"Our children might not have a future if we don't do something now. And it seems like [adults are] putting a lot of pressure on us, when they need to take the lead and they need to help us with this," Dunne said.

Dunne and her classmates said they aren't as familiar with issues around the environment and climate change, but are starting to be exposed to those topics more. 

Birchwood Intermediate Grade 9 students Kirsten Gallant, left, Chloe Campbell, Nelly Dunne and Marshall Duffy say they were inspired by Greta Thunberg's UN speech. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

Some students watched part of Thunberg's UN speech in their social studies class. 

"I kind of felt like it mirrored how a lot of kids are feeling. Like we can't do anything, so we have to push the adults to do something. And I think it really did voice a lot of concerns that the younger generations have," said Marshall Duffy. 

Duffy and Dunne said it's hard to imagine being on the global stage like Thunberg, but they said her activism is motivating them to take whatever small actions they can in their daily lives to be more environmentally conscious — like reducing waste, and walking more. 

'Be heard'

While the environmental science students at Colonel Gray say they worry large-scale change isn't coming fast enough, they hope Thunberg's message will encourage politicians and corporations to take action. 

"You would think that at our age we wouldn't have an impact because we can't vote," said Destiny Fraser.

"But she's still making a lot of people realize that this is a problem and it needs to be fixed, and we're the ones that are going to suffer from it." 

And some students, like McLure, said it's inspiring them to take action as well. 

"I know this Friday there's a … rally happening, and it's really kind of motivating me to go and attend. Not necessarily like have a sign or be yelling or anything, but just be there, be heard."

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About the Author

Sarah MacMillan is a journalist with CBC P.E.I. You can contact her at sarah.macmillan@cbc.ca

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